Concerning the most horrific legal scandal in modern French history, director Vincent Garenq’s Guilty (Présumé coupable, 2011) is a gripping drama based on the memoirs of Alain Marecaux (Philippe Torreton) who was wrongly accused of several accounts of child molestation and thrust into a terrifying web of false testimonies and heavy handed police investigations.
Early one morning, Alain Marecaux awoke to the sound of sirens at his rural home. The police instantly arrested him and his wife under suspicion of their involvement in an underground paedophilia ring. They ransacked his home looking for evidence and quickly separated him from his two sons and daughter.
From that moment on he was subjected to the wrath of prejudice police officers and the accusative nature of a power hungry young judge. He found himself imprisoned for a crime he never committed, with the injustice he suffered culminating in numerous suicide attempts, the breakup of his family and the loss of his job. Guilty depicts this farce of an investigation, exposing that ‘innocent until proven guilty’ isn’t necessarily always the mandate adhered to by the authorities.
Guilty, successfully creates an unavoidable atmosphere of helplessness through its unrelentingly honest approach. Torreton, in the lead role as Marecaux is tremendous, perfectly portraying the physical and psychological suffering of his character. His tour de force performance recalls Michael Fassbender’s deeply emotional and shatteringly affecting role in Steve McQueen’s Hunger (2008).
Gritty doesn’t even begin to explain the genuinely horrifying journey through the judicial system which Guilty depicts. The fact we are privy to the truth behind the inaccuracies of these allegations levied towards Marecaux makes the events which unfold even more uncomfortable to watch. Ironically, were the audience unaware of his innocence the treatment he endures would be applauded by those blinded by the moral panic created by newspapers and television regarding paedophilia. Indeed this deeply satirical take on society’s moral flexibility towards such heinous crimes is enough to mark Guilty as a necessary piece of cinema.
Guilty is a powerful, heartbreaking and intense drama that whilst perhaps too steeped in misery and despair to be enjoyed by the majority of viewers, is no doubt an important story which has been sympathetically recreated to enlighten audiences to the gravity of injustice which occurred.
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