Inspired by a concept from their philosophy class, two young men decide to kill a woman at random. After carrying out their crime, they return to their lives believing they got away with the perfect crime — killing without reason. However, upon their fleeing of the scene, they bumped into a young women and unintentionally left a clue behind that ties them to their crime.
“For it to be a crime there has to be a personal reason. A personal motive. But if it happens by chance…”
“Fever”, the feature film debut of Raphaël Neal, offers a rather unorthodox approach to the crime-thriller genre by coming from a philosophical angle with a heavy reliance on literature for the meat of the material. A bold attempt by Raphaël as it runs the risk of alienating parts of its audience, either from being unfamiliar with philosophers like Hannah Arendt and her work (like me), or for the fact that it’s focus is not on action but indirect consequences.
Initially, Neal’s “Fever” feels directionless as it casually meanders between the characters Damien, Pierre and Zoé. Focusing more on the monotony of their lives rather the suspense of a cat-and-mouse game involving teen thrill-killers. I was put off by the movie at first because of that — I was expecting something that would generate more tension and action. Zoé pursuing the boys in an attempt to find evidence of their crime, with her potentially becoming their next victim by her meddling. You know, something horribly obvious and redundant like that.
Slowly though, I began to understand what it is that Raphaël Neal was looking to accomplish. Or at the very least, what I believe he was trying to accomplish. There are no games with this movie. There are no twists. You know that Damien and Pierre murdered a woman (told only through sounds during the opening credits) and Zoé bumps into them as they flee the scene of the crime — and she eventually realizes they were the ones responsible for the murder. The concept of Neal’s film examining the philosophical concept of the outcome of a crime without reason isn’t made clear until about the first third of the movie. Once that moment clicks into place, “Fever” becomes fascinating — it exists more as a think-piece but one that comes across more in a casual manner.
As I mentioned before, there is a focus on literature and philosophers that the story and the characters call back to, so some of the film’s material was lost on me. Even so, the general concept of the movie was evident and it’s something that I admired. “Fever” isn’t a movie where it’s focus is on appearing as a heavy intellectual piece nor does it attempt to insult the audience by presenting itself as being smarter than they are. Watching “Fever” is closer to have a conversation — examining and discussing the possibilities of the consequences of a single action.
I can understand why Neal’s film will lose some audience members. It is slow, it doesn’t delve too deep into the characters and, at times, seems illogical — you expect the Zoé character to inform the police rather than have an identity crisis after bumping into two men who killed a nameless stranger. However, for me, that’s what kept me engaged with “Fever”. The way in which it follows these characters along and how everything continues on, as is, even when a life has been taken.
That being said, “Fever” isn’t without its flaws. Even though I thought it was successful at conveying it’s concept of relation between chance and reason, and what happens if something does in fact occur by chance. The way in which it shows Damien and Pierre continuing on with their lives makes it seem like the movie lacks direction. Or Zoé’s storyline seem illogical with her focus on her own existence, as opposed to taking her information to the police. In my opinion, it works well to enforce the movie’s concept and allows it to function as a thought experiment rather than just as a narrative.