Let’s start with the good news first: L’hermine is a procedural film about a French murder trial. A young father, Martial (Victor Pontecorvo), is accused of killing his 7-month-old baby. Court President Racine (Fabrice Luchini) has caught the flu and that makes him seem even more crabby than usual. From what we ear from the lawyers and his staff, Racine has a bad reputation as an unfair, expeditious and taciturn judge. The jurors are chosen in a kind of lottery when the President picks those who will be in the jury and those who will be alternates. The trial is intriguing because the accused refuses to talk except to say that he did not kill the baby. His partner, Jessica (Miss Ming) seems to be at lost about what happened and does not contribute much. We start thinking, as does everybody in the film, that Martial is not guilty. But what happened? Now, here’s the bad news: We never find out. This is a Fabrice Luchini film, and L’hermine‘s intrigue got sidetracked when President Racine picked Ditte Lorensen-Coteret (Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen) to sit on the jury. Instantly he recognizes her. She is an anesthetist and he was her patient some years earlier. They unethically meet at a café, where he tells her that he’s been thinking about her all those years. Why? Well, she touched his hand. She touches all her patient, she tells him. And he answers, that maybe it is like that in Denmark, but this is France. Yes indeed, and in France they have Fabrice Luchini, dirty old man par excellence, who always has a much younger leading lady in every one of his films. To his credit, Luchini is good and effective as Court President Racine, The judge’s reputation is not confirmed by what we see. I found him to be fair and impartial. And although he never smiles, he is nice to everyone and assures that the court proceedings are running smoothly. In short: Very professional. The problem with L’hermine is that I found the murder and trial more compelling than the masturbatory fantasies of a 65-year-old teenager in love with a woman who is 20 years younger. Instead of finding out who killed the child, we get to see vieux cochon Luchini get the girl. Yet again. Enough already! C’est assez!
Sidse Babett Knudsen
In French and English with English subtitles.