Since his first novel’s release in 1994, ex-reporter Jean-Christophe Grangé has taken the position of France’s top thriller writer. His novels always feature tortured characters, graphic depictions of violence and an intrigue bordering on the supernatural. His success has naturally been translated several times in film, with The Stone Council (original title Le Concile De Pierre), his third novel and most supernatural-minded work, being his third book adapted for the silver screen after The Crimson Rivers and Empire Of Wolves.
The Stone Council follows Laura Siprien, an interpreter in French and Russian who goes to Mongolia and adopts a little baby boy, Liu-San. Everything’s fine until a few days before the child’s seventh birthday, when strange events start to happen. Laura and her son seem to share the same nightmares night after night, a strange unexplainable mark appears on Liu-San’s chest and Liu-San starts to chant in an old dialect he’s never learned while sleeping. While attempting to learn more about what’s going on, Laura falls victim to countless hallucinations and is followed by a string of brutal murders.
Directed by Guillaume Nicloux (the A Private Affair/Hanging Offense aka That Woman/The Key trilogy), the adaptation was co-penned by Nicloux and Stéphane Cabel (Brotherhood of The Wolf). It stars Monica Bellucci (Shoot ‘Em Up), Catherine Deneuve (Dancer In The Dark), Moritz Bleibtreu (Speed Racer) and Sami Bouajila (The Siege) among others. Subtitled trailer and review after the jump.
Shot between France and Mongolia, Le Concile De Pierre is an enjoyable thriller with some beautiful shots during the Mongolia parts. Nicloux keeps the atmosphere right throughout and brings some good performances out of his actors, especially the young Nicolas Thau who, in his first ever role, plays Liu-San with surprising skill for someone his age. Monica Bellucci, with short hair and minimal makeup, delivers what is considered by many as one of her best performances. The music is also very nice, and is criminally not commercially available.
As someone who has read the book, my main problem with this film is simply the number of ways it departs from its source. Not only are names changed for no apparent reason (Bellucci’s character is called Diane Thiberge in the novel), but key elements of the plot are altered. For example in the book, the heroine was mutilated as a teen, rendering her incapable of physical intimacy. Also, whereas Catherine Deneuve’s character is the heroine’s mother on paper, on screen she becomes the heroine’s mother’s best friend. This and several other changes are not only puzzling, but the story actually loses something in the process.
It may arguably be the least interesting Grangé adaptation, but setting aside the discrepancies with the novel, Le Concile De Pierre remains a solid, well-made superntural thriller that was unfairly trashed upon its release in France, lasting a mere two weeks on screen. An all-around flop, it didn’t stop the Grangé craze as a fourth adaptation is about to get underway under the direction of Frédéric Schoendoerffer (Secret Agents aka Spy Bound), Le Serment Des Limbes, based on his seventh novel. As for Grangé himself, his eighth book Miserere was just released in France early this month. Despite releases in many countries including Turkey, Japan, Russia and Spain, Le Concile De Pierre was never shown in English-speaking countries. Nevertheless, the French DVD (Region 2) contains English subtitles and you can naturally get it through such outfits as Amazon.