“The Staircase”, on Canal +: what is the truth?

The Staircase

Thursday, October 13 at 9:10 p.m. on Canal+

The shot is unflattering: filmed very closely, his face still puffy with sleep, Michael Peterson (played by a formidable Colin Firth) expresses a sort of numb confusion, which the viewer risks sharing if he lets his attention slacken. Like the situation it describes – the fatal fall of a woman down the stairs of the family home – the first episode of The Staircase plays with disorder and instability. Especially since the camera of director Antonio Campos, too, willingly loses its balance, and the script wanders briskly from the present to the past and to the future.

It is therefore the growing familiarity with these narrative codes deployed in eight episodes and, above all, the admiration for the formidable acting of the actors, which encourages them to continue the adventure within the Petersen family. An adventure undermined by doubt: did Kathleen Peterson accidentally fall or, as the police seem to think, was she murdered by her husband?

Reality at the heart of fiction

This macabre news item had already fed a remarkable and noticed documentary series, suspicions, signed Jean-Xavier de Lestrade (1). His filming is moreover, and sometimes ambiguously, part of the plot of The Staircase, bringing some more complexity to the complexity. But the latter seems justified by the thickness of the shadow surrounding Michael Petersen, whose personality is constantly slipping away. Husband ravaged by pain or ashamed simulator of his bisexuality? A sincere man or a manipulator attached to restoring a reputation tainted by a few lies about his service in the army? Attentive father or deep down indifferent to the buried distress of his children?

The Staircase imposes its mark by the skilful deployment of its various registers: police investigation and psychological study, reflection on justice and diving into the heart of a sibling upside down. And then, this suspense and these twists that keep you in suspense, between pleasure and discomfort.

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