Thomas Kruithof’s directorial debut, Scribe is an old fashioned thriller in the very best sense. Duval (François Cluzet) is a model employee in a middling accountancy job. We first meet him being dumped on by a superior the night before a deadline he wasn’t made aware of. The cleaner’s find him later having turned the entire office upside down in order to sort the filing into a scarily precise row of box files. The empty bottle of whiskey on his desk eludes to bigger problems.
Skip forward two years and Duval sits, alone and unemployed in his apartment, a gigantic jigsaw sat on his kitchen table. He receives a medal for a year of sobriety from his AA group and is given a new charge to support in her battle with alcohol. Later, there is a chance encounter with an old friend at a funeral. One night, his phone rings with an unsolicited job offer. A shadowy individual would like some cassette tapes transcribing on an electric typewriter (he mistrusts more current technology). No questions asked, very set times of work, very specific instructions, no apparent colleagues. Only diligence and discretion are required….
From the outset, Kruithof sets a determinedly flat tone to proceedings. Duval is as bland as they come. A man with no ties, no life beyond the AA club and little personality to speak of. Against this banal background, the director gradually introduces elements that crank up the tension and eventually draw in players from all corners. Forbidden from smoking at work, a rule Duval has diligently followed, he is baffled to find increasingly irate warnings left on his typewriter about not smoking - the first sign anything is amiss. When a ‘colleague’ turns up out of the blue at the apartment Duval is working from, things quickly spiral out of control.
Scribe is an assured piece of filmmaking from the debutant director. Cluzet is well cast as the average man, gradually squeezed from all sides and apparently unable or unwilling to take any form of control over his life beyond his battle with alcohol. Tautly plotted and nicely paced, this is a promising start from Kruithof.