Bold and striking, dark and moody, prepared to be enrapt
Haunting and evocative, John Guillermin’s French/American black and white 1965 coming-of-age drama is an underrated little gem steeped in symbolism, simmering repression and strong performances.Shot with the kind of striking camera angles that would impress everybody from Welles to De Palma, with gorgeous cinematography that perfectly captures the Brittany beachfront setting, and a moody score that ignites the visuals, Rapture ostensibly tells the story of young girl, Agnes, who is under the thumb of her domineering single father, and whose burgeoning teen sexuality simply explodes after the arrival of a dashing escaped convict who hides out in their coastal house. But beneath the surface, religious subtext, acute character design and unexpected plot twists work wondrously to add welcome depth to this piece.
Putting in a fantastic lead performance, 15-year old Patricia Gozzi steals the show as the enrapt Agnes, who initially convinces herself that the escaped convict is actually her beloved farm scarecrow come to life, as she had prayed for. Gozzi combines the kind of innocence, guile and bewilderment you would expect from a child – particularly one kept protected in this kind of bubble – with that simmering on-the-cusp-of sexuality that perfectly suits the role. Opposite her, a young Dean Stockwell – who would later become a mainstay in everything from Quantum Leap to Battlestar Galactica – reminds us of James Dean, whilst Hud’s Melvyn Douglas plays the frustrated father who doesn’t know quite how to deal with his equal parts disturbed and blossoming child.
Echoing the works of Bergman and Fellini, Rapture (and indeed its star Gozzi) has largely gone underrated and underacknowledged over the years, with Gozzi quitting acting not long after the production, and Guillermin’s more big budget work (King Kong and The Towering Inferno) overshadowing this early effort, but it is nonetheless a compelling and powerful little gem.
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