Daguerrotype, otherwise known as Le Secret De La Chambre Noire (The secret of the dark room), is a French film by a Japanese writer and director.
Jean, Tahir Rahim (Black Gold, The Prophet) finds himself working for an esteemed but unusual photographer Stephane, Olivier Gourmet (The Son, La Promesse) who has an unusual technique.
Stephane creates daguerreotypes (I don’t know why the ‘e’ is missing in the movies title) of his subjects. This can mean the subject must sit for anything from a few minutes to a few hours.
Stephane’s usual muse was his wife until she died in strange circumstances and so he now uses his daughter Maria, Constance Rousseau (All Is Forgiven, Next Year).
With all the time Jean and Maria spend together they end up falling in love and hatch a plan to get Stephane out of the large, old house he lives in which is right in the centre of a new property development.
But there is something strange about the house and about the daguerreotype’s that live there with them.
Daguerrotype is a strange film. It’s long, at just over two-hours, and it’s a slow, meandering burn as the story builds and the plot points you in every which way.
The sets and direction are beautiful, a mix of old and new, with writer / director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (The Cure, Bright Future) often providing a floaty feel to proceedings.
The acting, whilst wonderfully powerful from all three main characters, often it feels like they’re plodding around a large, empty house with little idea what they’re supposed to be conveying.
The movie confuses from the outset; the French title doesn’t come to fruition, there is no dark room that anything of note happens in.
Whilst the English title is a closer match, there’s little in the way of explanation as to why Stephane is using a technique that has been completely superseded over 150 years ago.
Characters appear and disappear whilst strange occurrences and goings-on happen, are never mentioned again or tackled in anyway shape of form.
Sadly, the wonderful sets, nice direction and good performances, aren’t enough to save this meandering, lost film.
It all adds to up a movie that doesn’t actually go anywhere. You sit and watch and wait, feeling like you could be having your own daguerreotype done, and then it’s all over. Maybe that’s the point…