★★★★☆

Fabrice Du Welz’s sixth film Inexorable continues to explore his fascination with troubled souls. Here, it’s a young woman on a mission to destroy an author and his upper-class wife, for reasons which are kept tantalisingly opaque.

Marcus Bellmer (Benoît Poelvoorde) is the writer of a hit novel. Married into old money, via his publisher wife (played by Mélanie Doutey), whose family have links to 1930s Belgian fascists, the couple – along with their daughter Lucie (Janaina Halloy) – move into an inherited country pile surrounded by acres and acres of gorgeous countryside (all of which they own). Life is pretty damn sweet; every day is golden sunshine and blue skies. Then, like phantasmal charcoal clouds appearing from the horizon suddenly, Gloria (Alba Gaïa Bellugi) comes into their lives.

Gloria is an agent of radical change in the guise of a harmless nanny employed by the Bellmers on a whim. It’s done in that classic middle-class way, where a demand is dressed up as a nice opportunity for all involved. But Gloria was always going to agree, anyway, as she’s got a hidden agenda, and their meeting in the first place far from an unexpected occurrence. What the Bellmers really want is another servant at hand, another person to keep their lonely daughter occupied, freeing up plenty of time for themselves and the demands of their careers.

Inexorable crafted as impeccably as a high-end Swiss watch, is reminiscent of Claude Chabrol’s master works. The dreamy sun-kissed photography by Manu Dacosse sits in contrast to the sleaze and darkness underpinning the story, while his clever use of the dolly zoom disrupts the illusory placid environment, and the spiralling camera movements symbolise both a knot tightening and a situation slowly unravelling before our eyes. It’s deeply pleasurable use of technique on show; hypnotic, subliminal at times.

With its isolated, bucolic location, castle-style home, its echoes of return of the repressed themes, and a finale set on a dark and stormy night, Inexorable – the perfect title for such a fatalistic yarn – often works as a modern take on gothic and vampire fiction, especially given the targeted motives of Gloria, who in one scene literally bites Marcus on the neck after he firmly rejects her, having been tempted first of course and then almost caught in flagrante delicto.

There are shades of Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella Carmilla too; the mysterious girl taken in by kindly aristocrats, the subsequent development of an intense friendship with their daughter as means to keep herself in their good graces. Inexorable is a deliciously perverse dance of death by Du Welz; a class warfare duke out where the long-buried past returns to haunt the living and erupts into mutually self-destructive violence.

Visit the BFI London Film Festival page to delve deeper into the wealth of films on show this year.

Martyn Conterio | @martynconterio