Another forgotten gem given new life on DVD and Blu-ray here in the UK, John Guillermin’s Rapture (1965) is a beautifully-made and challenging oddity. It’s a film which undoubtedly sent the top brass at Twentieth Century Fox (the studio who first brought it to screen) into a spin when it was first released, but there’s a much more to chew on other than the sometimes risqué content. Agnes (Patricia Gozzi) is a confused and unhappy teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood, living in a coastal farmhouse in rural Brittany. She gets little love and reassurance from her emotionally aloof father (Melvyn Douglas), tuning instead to the sexually-active live-in housekeeper (Gunnel Lindblom) for womanly advice.
Out of boredom one day, she fervently constructs a scarecrow which coincides with the arrival of Joseph, an American convict on the run (played by Lynch regular Dean Stockwell, complete with James Franco-esque good looks). He is injured and is allowed to recuperate in the farm, but Agnes is transfixed with the American, whom she believes is a flesh and blood representation of her straw man. Rapture is a strange, sometimes unsettling coming-of-age tale which lightly teases a magical edge while holding on to an ambiguity throughout. Director Guillermin (who would go on to replace the quiet thoughtfulness here with the bombast of The Towering Inferno and his Jeff Bridges-starring 1976 remake of King Kong) deploys a roving, vérité style not dissimilar to that of the French Nouvelle Vague.
The gliding camera work along the potentially treacherous coastline formation Agnes is forever gallivanting across in search of escape, offers further intrigue and an otherworldly feel. There’s also a hint of early Polanski here, and Gozzi is the kind of fractured heroine that would have instantly chimed with the director’s sensibilities from that period. The actress gives an incredibly spirited and intelligent performance as the conflicted teen, and it’s mainly down to her assured abilities that her character’s relationship with Joseph, while objectionable, never feels particularly creepy, despite the decade-plus age difference. For all the dark and ominous undertones, Rapture is a moving depiction of looking for love and acceptance, and it more than deserves a place amongst the sobering British dramas of that era and the aforementioned offerings from the country of its setting. Eagle-eyed trivia fans – look out for a brief appearance from Peter Sallis (one half of animated duo Wallace and Gromit), who plays Agnes’ brother-in-law.