Subor plays a man who seems to lead a fulfilling life in rural France, swimming in lakes, followed by a pair of beautiful, quiet, and loyal Japanese dogs, and exchanging sly grins with a neighbor (Béatrice Dalle) who looks after the local wolf community. But something’s awry. He clutches his chest while out swimming one day. A young lover, on a visit, reassures him she’s brought his medication. Soon we see Subor on a computer, receiving messages in Cyrillic type about a procedure that’s being prepared, for him apparently.
“Your worst enemies are hiding inside … in your heart” a mysterious young woman says at the movie’s outset. Usually that’s a metaphor. But Denis based this movie on an essay by the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, about surviving a heart transplant. Both the narrative of “L’Intrus” and its eventual expansion into a bold series of poetics flights—sequences that do lean heavily on the metaphorical—were inspired by Nancy’s reflections rather than the events he specifically described. Reflections on medicine and the warding off of death, and the eventually point of warding off death. This is weighty stuff and Denis accords it its proper respect. But she also, with this film, insists on liberty—cinematic, poetic, intellectual—as liberty is, one may argue, one of the points of life itself.
As Subor’s character appears to prepare for a heart transplant in Russia, he goes about squaring things, awkwardly visiting an adult son who’s struggling as he raises a family. He attempts to drop off his dogs for safekeeping with Dalle’s character, but she rebuffs him: “They’re as crazy as you are … get out, you drive my dogs crazy.” But she smiles as she says this, with irony and tenderness. So Subor sets them free, and he looks back on them down the dirt road as he drives away, a mournful trumpet and synth stretching out a theme on the soundtrack.