“Mobius” is writer/director Eric Rochant’s second film exploring the world of espionage. What differentiates “Mobius” from “The Patriots” (1994) is the relationship between the two central characters, played by Jean Dujardin and Cecile De France. Rochant wanted to create a believable love story in the guise of a spy movie, somewhat like Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 classic “Notorious”. Rochant’s vision is darker that Hitchcock’s, however, and the two lovers in this film do not escaped unscathed.
Alice is a former Lehmann Brothers stock trader, working at a bank in Monaco after the collapse of the US financial markets. The owner of the bank is a Russian oligarch named Ivan Rostovsky. Rostovsky, who is involved in money laundering and other illicit activities, is the target of a Russian intelligence operation. The man in charge of that operation, Gregory Lioubov, decides to recruit Alice as a mole. What he does not know is that Alice has already been recruited by the CIA. Alice and Lioubov are unaware of each other’s true identities, and their lives become even more complicated when they begin a secret affair.
Although the threat of violence hangs over everyone’s lives in this film, there is only one fight sequence. The centerpiece of the movie is the love scene between Alice and Lioubov. Rochant emphasizes the emotional attachment developing between the two by the use of extreme close-ups. He fills the screen with only the eyes of his characters. The realistic and sensual depiction of sex may make some viewers uncomfortable, but the scene is not exploitative in any way.
Rochant the screenwriter is dispassionate regarding the battle for supremacy between the two superpowers. His story expresses the idea that espionage is an endless game, and no individual is safe from a reversal of fortune. Rostovsky is a billionaire power broker one day, and a political exile the next. This helps explain the title of the film. A Mobius strip is a twisted oval shape. As one of the CIA agents demonstrates in the film, if you trace the circumference of the shape, you end up on a different side than where you started.
Rochant plays with the camera in certain scenes to emphasize this duplicity of character. He makes use of glass and mirrors so that the image onscreen may be the actual person or merely a reflection. Overall, the film is seductively photographed by cameraman Pierre Novion. The only slightly amateurish touch involves scenes that are supposed to take place in moving cars. It is obvious that the scenes are shot in a stationary vehicle with the background added in the editing process.
“Mobius” was released in Europe in 2013 but failed to find an American theatrical distributor. This is curious given the fact that Dujardin had already won an Oscar for “The Artist”. Tim Roth, who plays Rostovsky, is a well-known actor in the states. American actor Wendell Pierce, from “The Wire”, has a supporting role in the film, as well. Lionsgate, who released the film on DVD, obviously thinks there is still an American audience for adult love stories (just not enough of an audience to risk a theatrical release).
“Mobius” was released in the US on DVD in 2014. It is rated R for sexuality and occasional profanity. The film is in French, English and Russian with subtitles. I bought a copy to review at my own expense.