Say this for director Dominik Moll: He has followed up his deliciously wry black comedy With a Friend Like Harry with a film that is equally engaging, although much blacker and more open-ended. And that's just fine. If Lemming doesn't necessarily work on an intellectual level, it sure does emotionally.
The picture opens with a disastrous dinner party, at which young couple Alain and Bénédicte (Laurent Lucas and Charlotte Gainsbourg, both top-notch) are shocked by the boorish behavior of Alice (Charlotte Rampling, deliciously depraved), wife of Alain's boss Richard (André Dussollier, seemingly civilized but really not). After Alice accuses her husband of being a whoremonger and then throws a glass of wine in his face, the older couple decamp abruptly, leaving the younger duo to wonder what the hell has just happened. This aura of mystery within normal suburban life only deepens when Bénédicte discovers that the object which has been clogging her kitchen sink is actually a nearly dead rodent-like creature which turns out to be a lemming, whose natural habitat is in northern Scandinavia.
Shortly thereafter, Alice turns up at Alain's office and unsuccessfully attempts to seduce him. Then she shows up at the young couple's house when Bénédicte is home alone, asks to come in, tells Bénédicte about the failed seduction, goes to the visitor's bedroom, locks herself in and commits suicide.
From this point, Lemming gets even weirder. Moll has made a film about human interaction which seemingly dips into the supernatural, but can also be viewed as a very Gallic-meaning restrained and deliberately paced-tale of jealousy and murder. What sets it apart from other genre movies, however (if Lemming can even be referred to in those terms), is the constant aura of menace that hovers over the whole enterprise, a flesh-crawling feeling that something awful, or very strange, is about to happen at any moment. It's not the kind of feeling that makes you jump in shock, but the type that insidiously works its way beneath your skin.
Not that some jarring moments don't occur in Lemming, as well as a few red herrings that are dropped along the way. The brilliance of Moll's direction and screenplay lie in the fact that even though the occurrences in Lemming are open to multiple interpretations, the film is thoroughly satisfying on any number of levels. It's a total creep-fest and a work of art that revels in its ambiguity. They don't make 'em like this in Hollywood, folks.