Disorder begins with a flutter.
A smattering of birdsong and a gentle breeze fade into our ears as the screen remains black. It is the calm before the storm, the only real peace and tranquility we, and it’s protagonist, will know until the credits roll.
Disorder is the tale of Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts), a soldier who finds himself without a purpose when he is cast aside due to his burgeoning anxiety and PTSD. Before long he finds work with a group of fellow ex-soldiers providing security for a party at a beautiful house on the French Riviera.
During the party Vincent discovers the host, Whalid, may be involved in the murky world of political slush funds and arms dealing. Soon after, he is tasked with protecting Whalid’s wife, Jessie (Diane Kruger) and son, Ali whilst he is away on business.
The film opens with Vincent jogging with other soldiers. He becomes unfocused in the frame as he bounds towards us, the camera locked tight on his face. The sounds of nature soon fall away and we’re left with a pulsing electronic beat as we slowly realise that Vincent’s nose is bleeding.
This opening thirty seconds is a portent of how Winocour chooses to show Vincent’s condition throughout the film. She brings us in close on Vincent, often at an unusual angle, whilst discordant sounds and the pounding bassline of Gesaffelstein’s soundtrack block everything else out. Everything in Vincent’s world is amplified. Car engines become an almighty roar and a simple garden sprinkler is a rogue wave tearing everything asunder.
When Vincent is cast out of the army he returns to small flat in a faceless tower block. He shouts for his mother but gets no reply. His bedroom seems frozen in time, like that of a teenager, all football pennants and tattered posters. Vincent is a ghost, moving through our world whilst being entirely separate from it.
As he strides through the party this idea is taken further, taking on an aspect of class. Vincent is a product of a war waged for profit and power, a war conducted by some of the very people he is now protecting, people who don’t even see him unless it’s to ask for more ice.
Schoenaerts plays Vincent as a bundle of tightly wound and frayed nerves. He shoots cynical, resentful smirks and knowing smiles at those around him. Several times during the party scene he follows guests and eavesdrops. He has a good nose for trouble and an eye for detail but it’s only because he’s seeking it out, eager to let go of something festering inside of him.
With this in mind it’s easy to see why Vincent accepts the job of watching over Jessie whilst Whalid is away. He regains some semblance of structure and purpose, but there’s also the possibility he may be called on to unleash the demons inside.
As Vincent’s time on protection detail rolls on the tension winds tighter and tighter. As he watches over Jessie and Ali at the beach, Winocour switches pace, shifting down into slow motion as the soundtrack pounds, rings and roars. We see what Vincent sees, slow lingering shots of two women laughing and smiling, a runner sprinting past Jessie, men standing nearby on mobile phones - everything is suspicious, everything is a threat. This is Vincent’s world.
As the film enters its final act Winocour spends a little time tightening the bond between Jessie and Vincent. When Vincent first sees Jessie he does so from behind a barred window. Later he watches her on a monitor as he looks at the house’s CCTV. Barriers, physical or otherwise, exist between the two characters for a large part of the movie. At several points during the movie we see Vincent’s stare linger on Jessie. There’s an obvious attraction to her on his part, but there also seems to be a fascination. She lives in a world and class so far removed from his own that she seems otherworldly to him. In turn, Jessie is cold towards Vincent initially, even fearful of him.
Later on, Vincent calls in a friend, Denis, for some help in watching over the house. After Vincent does his rounds he comes across Denis flirting with Jessie. It comes easily to Denis and Vincent can only watch from the other side of the table, smiling uncomfortably as he remains trapped beneath his anguish.
But, in a scene towards the end of the movie, Jessie and Vincent watch television. Jessie, in an off the cuff piece of dialogue, says she could see Vincent living in Canada hunting for bears and the pair begin to laugh about it. It’s a small, sweet moment built towards by Schoenarts’ and Venora’s subtle and understated performances. It’s the first time we see Vincent laugh, but it’s also the first time another character sees Vincent as something more than his surface suggests.
It’s at this precise moment that Winocour chooses to plunge the world into literal and metaphorical darkness as the threat of violence that has been hanging over the entire film finally makes its presence known. The house, previously shown as light and airy, now becomes a labyrinth of shadow and chaos thanks to DP Georges Lechaptois.
Vincent, of course, knew this was coming and acts accordingly. There is no efficiently choreographed set-pieces here, no balletic gunfights. Violence is ugly, sudden and messy. Limbs flail, glass shatters and men do not get up when they’re bleeding out from the gut.
It’s easy to miss it during the ferocity of the finale, but the score drops out almost completely during this final sequence. The chaos inside of Vincent is finally externalised and catharsis is a blood smeared coffee table.
It’s only now, when the violence he has been seeking all along is over, that some kind of calm washes over Vincent for the first time. Despite this, the film ends on an uncertain note. Peace (and quiet) reigns, but it’s unclear whether Vincent has finally crossed the divide or whether he still remains on the other side looking in.