The narrative of Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day is hardly what matters - the newlywed couple in Paris for their supposed honeymoon, the doctor who keeps his ravenous, enigmatic wife locked up in a bedroom and safe from herself, the neuroscientists slicing into a brain easier than soft butter. What matters are images, feelings, impressions, sights and sounds. These are the things that matter when we're in lust, these are the things that matter to us on a primitive sexual level. And these are the things that afflict us - all of us - because there's nothing more horrific than human nature, and human nature is irrational desire.
On a basic level, Denis' film is about Dr. Brown (Vincent Gallo) and his wife June (Tricia Vessey), who travel to Paris for what June believes is their honeymoon, but her husband has other plans - to find Dr. Leo Semeneau (a perfectly restrained Alex Descas) and his wife Coré (Beatrice Dalle), with whom Brown was obsessed when the two doctors worked together. That is the simplest description.
There is something intentionally off-putting about Denis' film, locked and boarded up in the same way Semeneau restrains Coré to prevent her from indulging what he believes to be a virus - a helpless affliction that drives her to have intense sexual encounters with men that end horrifically when she bites them to death. Trouble Every Day does not warmly invite you in, but challenges you to break down the surface and peer at the horror inside. Both Coré and Brown appear to suffer from the same ailment, one that subjectively speaks to infidelity and the innate desire for more, more, more, and what happens when we indulge that insatiable need. Coré satisfies her cravings in a literal sense, her devouring of flesh representative of a crude curiosity and resultant need to find fulfillment and nourishment in the bodies of others. Lust is powerful, intoxicating and misleading - it is a feeling of the moment, fleeting and dangerous in equal measure.
Coré's husband tries to justify his wife's violent cravings with a medical diagnosis, but you cannot objectify that which is wholly subjective. Semeneau convinces himself that his wife is psychologically afflicted, and we are left to wonder if she is truly suffering from a disease or if she's merely giving in to her primitive desires, indulging in a sexual freedom that is perceived as taboo. The same goes for Brown, whose preoccupation with Coré leads him to her house, where he discovers that she has devoured two young men who broke into her home and into her room, visiting her as if she were some ravenous Rapunzel. The scene is gruesome and yet there's something somber and melancholy about Coré, her white slip drenched in blood - the calm after the savage climax; the post-orgasmic suggestive state in which she is more susceptible to the idea of love, and though she just fed she feels impossibly hollow.
Denis' film explores the concept of infidelity and asks if our innate disposition is to be monogamous, and regardless, what are the perils of constantly chasing after more - more sex, more affection, more physical connection, more than what we'll ever have or be able to hold. We are collectively a society of "more," tragically, endlessly unsatisfied with what we have and what we've earned. Examined more closely and this simple idea is essentially horrifying. Semeneau can delude himself into believing his wife is suffering from a brain disease that's made her insatiably unfaithful, and Brown can convince himself that he's suffering from the same affliction, but the truth is that Coré is depressed and simply yearns for something - anything - more than what she has.
Meanwhile, Brown's "affliction" is an overestimation of a basic concept - he is understandably second-guessing his very recent marriage, and so he travels to Paris to find the woman he was once infatuated with in an effort to rationalize his doubts.
Brown embarks on an increasingly deluded journey, leading him to a tragic encounter with Coré that gives him no answers about who he is or why he doesn't feel as though his intimacy with June is enough. Further down the spiral Brown shuns June mid-sex in favor of furiously masturbating in the bathroom. Soon after, he buys a puppy - that stereotypical, desperate attempt at saving a marriage. Eventually, we find Brown with a hotel maid in what is inarguably the film's most visceral and upsetting sequence - and perhaps one of the most nauseating depictions of sex ever displayed in film.
It's not just the horror of what we don't see Brown doing to the maid, or the terror of what we do see, or the unnerving, repulsive sounds of his mouth violently searching her body and her painful screams - it's the idea at the heart of this act: that Brown is giving into his perceived affliction in an effort to obtain this nebulous concept of "more," and this is the horror it has wrought. Even worse is what comes after: nothing. In that lustful moment, Brown devours the maid, taking her into his body in a manner that simple intercourse cannot achieve; the literal consummation of her flesh belying the figurative consummation.
It is also a fairly sick, clever joke from Denis, who has crafted a film that plays on the concept of consummating a marriage in the most frightening and deeply unsettling way imaginable.
What Brown ultimately realizes, and what we all eventually realize, is that lust is fleeting - in the moment it can feel like a painful junkie urge that only sexual release can soothe, but when the dust and bodily fluids settle, there is emptiness. Lust cannot be sustained longterm, but love can. And in this way, Trouble Every Day's final statement is ultimately and surprisingly a romantic one.