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Movie Review - Counter Investigation - A French Film with English Sub-Titles (2007)

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Background

The film “Counter Investigation” was filmed in France, using French dialogue, and kindly gives English sub-titles for its viewers in the States.  The tale was taken from a short story written by American writer Lawrence Block whose thrilling mystery novels are popular with his United States fans.  If you do not mind following a film through its sub-titles, this one is well worth your time.

                                                        

Jean Dujardin

                                                             Jean Dujardin - Wikimedia

Introduction

Richard Malinowski (Jean Dujardin) is a police captain in Paris whose job has overtaken his life, even though he has a lovely wife Claire (Agnes Blanchot) and a nine-year old daughter Emilie (Alexandra Goncalvez) whom he loves dearly.  Claire is an anesthesiologist whose work keeps her busy, so that Richard often takes Emilie on light excursions to keep her busily contented.  He had just promised Emily that they would spend the day bicycling in the woods when he received a call from police headquarters concerning a case with which he was involved.  He was forced to disappoint Emily, but told her he would be back in an hour.  After Richard left for work, Emily hopped on her bike to meet a fellow classmate, a boy, in the park.

When Richard returned home, Emilie was nowhere to be found.  He received a phone call from headquarters to come over to the park.  The body of a young girl was discovered there.  She had been raped and beaten to death.  It was Emilie.

                                                

Laurent Lucas

                                                               Laurent Lucas - Wikimedia

A Killer Confesses

The boy who was with Emilie was questioned, but he maintained that they had an argument and she went off without him.  A man was arrested for Emilie’s murder.  The police had to restrain Richard who burst in on the scene, wanting to kill the culprit.  His name was Daniel Eckman (Laurent Lucas), a man in his thirties who had confessed to the murder, but later retracted his statement.  Without DNA, the police needed his confession.  One year later, Daniel Eckman went on trial, but in spite of the hasty inquiry and his accusation that his confession was forced, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Eckman Corresponds with Richard

Daniel Eckman began to correspond with Richard, a fact that Richard kept secret, even from his wife Claire.  They were both devastated at the loss of their child and did not know where to turn.  They were each mourning in their own way.  Eckman insisted to Richard that he was innocent of the charges that sent him to prison.  He had turned to God in his troubles and was confident that the truth would eventually come out.  In prison, he was subjected to the scorn and physical abuse of other prisoners who looked upon his offense as abominable.

                                                 

Scale of Justice

                                                     
                                                              Scale of Justice - Wikimedia

A Serial Killer Emerges

Richard’s doubts haunted him and he decided to conduct his own personal investigation, believing that Eckman may not have been the perpetrator.  For a year, their correspondence continued, and Eckman eventually pointed to a possible suspect, a serial killer named Armand Salinas who had just been arrested, and whose profile seemed to fit the crime against Emilie.  Meanwhile, Richard’s wife Claire found Eckman’s letters in Richard’s locked office drawer, and was upset that Richard was trying to exonerate the man.  After a lapse of concentration in surgery which endangered the life of a patient, Claire was asked to take a leave of absence by her superiors who recognized that Claire had not yet recovered from the loss of her daughter.  Claire decided to leave Richard for a time to stay with her parents during her grieving period which was so hurtful.  Richard had time to probe further into his findings.

Armand Salinas’ History

The case received a lot of publicity, particularly when Armand Salinas was arrested.  Richard heard of a doctor who had treated Armand Salinas when he was a child.  He had been abused.  He was a pervert of limited intelligence.  Several unsolved crimes pointed to him.  The doctor did not testify at Eckman’s trial.  Richard also spoke to a female cousin of Salinas who lived for a time with her when he found work as a roadman.  Emilie was killed during that time.

One Woman Comes Forward

The Court of Appeals did not overturn Daniel Eckman’s case.  He remained in prison.  He read and re-read the letters he had received from women, particularly one woman named Christiane Carlier (Caroline Santini) who had sent him a silver cross which he wore around his neck.  When the newspaper publicity concerning Armand Salinas became a topic of public conversation, Christiane Carlier came forward to tell the authorities that her appointment book listed that she was jogging on that day and encountered Armand Salinas on the jogging path.  She had no reason to link him with the murder at the time until she saw his face on television just recently.  Salinas said “I have killed children before, but I didn’t kill her.”

 

Judge's Gavel

                                                              Judge's Gavel - MorgueFile

A New Trial for Daniel Eckman

Richard proposed that Daniel Eckman should be retried.  Richard offered to be a witness for his defense.  Christiane Carlier was also a witness.  Eckman’s conviction was overturned and he was a free man.  Daniel Eckman met Christiane for the first time.  He told her he would receive money for his false imprisonment and he planned to go to Nice and buy a house rather than to stay in Paris.  He asked that she burn the letters he had sent to her or to give them to him.

The next thing Daniel Eckman wanted to do was to thank Captain Malinowski for his help.  He asked to visit him.  He gave Richard the cross from around his neck that Christiane had sent him.  He wanted to see Emilie’s room also where he broke down and cried.

Surprise

There is such a surprise ending that it will not be revealed here.  Lawrence Block writes thrilling stories which keep the reader entranced until the end.  This particular American story translated well into its French venue, and cast the French fans’ favorite actors who played their roles flawlessly.  I plan to read more of Lawrence Block’s mysteries in the future.

 

 

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