In Dominik Moll’s unnerving thriller “With a Friend Like Harry,” the title character, an ingratiating but decidedly creepy fellow played by Sergi Lopez, attaches himself to an old school buddy, Michel (Laurent Lucas). Michel is a young husband and father who’s obviously feeling the stress of supporting a family, and Harry, who turns out to be a scheming psychopath, determines to free him of his burdens–so that, Harry unctuously explains, Michel can devote himself to writing. The picture, written by Moll and Gilles Marchand, generates considerable suspense, tension–and humor–by detailing how Harry insidiously works his way and Michel becomes somewhat acquiescent in his efforts.
In a recent Dallas interview, Moll–a half-German, half-French young man who studied film at Paris and the City University of New York–admitted something that his own family might find upsetting. When asked how he got the idea behind the script, he explained, “It came from my experience as a father. You’re never quite prepared that it’s going to change your life in such a radical way. Once in a while you have fantasies of being free again. That’s where the idea came from. I wanted to tell the story of somebody who was in that kind of situation, a bit drowned in his everyday life, and who suddenly found himself confronted by somebody else who represented complete freedom, and then to see what would happen if you put the two of them together.” Moll brainstormed with Marchand about how to dramatize the notion and, he said, “Gradually it became a kind of thriller, something that was based on suspense.”
The writer-director responded enthusiastically to a suggestion that his picture had the feel of a work by Patricia Highsmith, the noted novelist whose books included “Strangers on a Train” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” “I do like her novels a lot,” Moll replied, “and I even read them as I was writing the script in order to be in that kind of mood and atmosphere. I like the relationships between people in her novels because they are really strange, and you also have strange fascinations from one person to another; and I also like how [she] starts with quite ordinary situations and then, little by little, you find yourself in a quite strange one without really knowing how you got there.”
Moll was less pleased by a comparison between “Harry” and the thrillers of Claude Chabrol, likening it instead to the films of Hitchcock. He explained what he saw as a difference: “I tried [to achieve]what I like in films–where you have different layers and different levels where you can see the film. I tried to make my film work on a real level with a real story with real characters, but also to have a more metaphorical level where you can see almost the whole thing as taking place in Michel’s imagination, as if he had created Harry because he needed him at that moment in his life to sort out his problems. And it’s almost as if you could see Harry and Michel as both sides of the same person, Harry representing the dark side that had been suppressed. That’s something I like in Hitchcock’s films, that you often–besides the story which is there–you also have a more dreamlike level. I don’t find that with Chabrol.”
“With a Friend Like Harry” is a Miramax release.