Main Entry: 1rap·ture
Etymology: Latin raptus
1 a : a state or experience of being carried away by overwhelming emotion b : a mystical experience in which the spirit is exalted to a knowledge of divine things
2 : an expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion
Upon viewing Claude Chabrol's La Rapture, I felt a sense of nostalgia for intricately structured thrillers of the 60's and 70's. Many cinephiles have compared Chabrol to Hitchcock. This isn't a surprise considering he has written an influential book on Hitchcock in 1957. Richard Armstrong writes in Senses of Cinema,
"Lang and Hitchcock would have profound influences upon Chabrol's own films. From Lang, he derived a sense of cinematic space, the relationship of image to narrative, the prospect of entrapment. From Hitchcock, he derived a sense of irony, the relationship between guilt and the individual, the prospect of murder."
As in Les Innocents aux mains sales (Innocents with Dirty Hands), La Rapture manipulates the viewers expectations, quickly confirming that Chabrol can successfully prove assumptions wrong. Helene Regnier (Stephane Audran) runs away from her abusive husband after a violent outburst that resulted in their son's hospitalization. Her son is seriously injured so she decides to move into a seedy boarding house across the street from the hospital. The boarding house provides some amazing supporting actors, the washed-up actor, the boarding house keeper, her husband and "backward daughter, a doctor, and the three fates- all of them serve an important purpose as revealed by the end of the film. Shortly after she files for a divorce Helene's bourgeois father-in-law hires a shady family friend, Paul Thomas, to smear her character. From here on Paul works hard to break Helene's sanity and her spirit by snaking his way into her life (he even moves into the boarding house claiming that he is sick and must attend regular "treatments" at the hospital") and turning all her friends against her. Paul Thomas is one of the scariest villains I've ever encountered in celluloid. The creepiest sort, the kind that stops at nothing- including plotting a perverted scenario involving the boarding house lady's "backward" daughter. At this point what we expect does not happen. That's all I'm going to say about the plot.
Claude Chabrol constructs an environment that uncovers the absurd (especially in the bourgeoisie), that deception only reflects an inevitable fate. A theme he chronicles throughout his films.