TRAPS takes place in the politically charged atmosphere of Vietnam in the 1950s, focusing on the personal lives of several western "visitors" to the region. While the film features intriguing characters in a provocative story and setting, it is marred by weak dialogue and an overly
Louise Duffield (Saskia Reeves), an Australian photographer, accompanies Michael (Robert Reynolds), her husband, on his assignment to write economic reports about rubber plantation operations in 1950 Indochina. The underlying problems in Louise and Michael's marriage become more apparent in their
new environment, a country house occupied by their hosts, Daniel Renouard (Sami Frey), a French plantation owner, and Viola Renouard (Jacqueline McKenzie), Daniel's willful daughter.
While tensions mount among the four sexually frustrated characters, the Vietnamese Communists living outside the residence begin retaliating against the westerners for the mistreatment of a house servant. After Louise and Viola barely escape being killed by soldiers in the jungle, they rejoin
Michael and Daniel at the house, where they are forced to kill a soldier who threatens to warn his comrades of their whereabouts. Louise also realizes her marriage is over when she discovers that Michael has been influenced by Daniel's French imperialist views (and that he has shared Daniel's
bed). Daniel forces a bloody confrontation with Louise, Michael, and Viola as the three try to escape the area, but, ultimately, he loses in the showdown.
In her first feature film, director Pauline Chan effectively evokes the Vietnam of her youth through authentic clothes and hairstyles, and location cinematography. Although TRAPS is based on Kate Grenville's book, Dreamhouse, which was set in Tuscany, Chan cleverly changes the setting, adding a
new dramatic dimension to the story, and offering wise observations about culture clashes, uneasy alliances, and the effects of the political on the personal.
But Chan is less successful in building upon her innovative premise, in part because she sometimes writes cliched dialogue, which diminishes the impact of some big scenes. In the film's last quarter, Chan also pushes the action to a hyperbolic extreme: the group-killing of the soldier, the two
lead male characters having sex, Louise's epiphany about her marriage, and the last brutal acts all occur within a very short time frame.
For the bulk of the film, Chan proves herself both a thoughtful and sensual stylist, with a good eye for details and a sure feeling for various types of characters. Her obvious talent, though it assures a solid future for the director, makes the ending of TRAPS all the more disappointing.
(Violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations, adult situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: TRAPS takes place in the politically charged atmosphere of Vietnam in the 1950s, focusing on the personal lives of several western "visitors" to the region. While the film features intriguing characters in a provocative story and setting, it is marred by w… (more)