Based on the book La Question Humaine by François Emmanuel, Heartbeat Detector unfolds a quietly riveting mystery of blackmail and intrigue, as the long-buried secrets of high-powered corporate executives threaten to bring them down.
Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) stars as Simon Kessler, a psychologist working in the Human Resources Department of multinational petrochemical corporation SC Farb. For the seven years that he's been with the company, Simon has been responsible for employee selection and the implementation of motivational seminars designed to guide SC Farb's executives toward his only goal: "making them soldiers, knights of the business world, highly competitive subalterns."
Simon's tenacious, rigorous and resilient. His successful role in a recent corporate downsizing proved to SC Farb's managing director Karl Rose (Jean-Pierre Kalfon) that Simon is the perfect candidate to sort out a delicate situation concerning the firm's head-office in Germany. The Germans want a detailed report on SC Farb's CEO Mathias Jüst (Michael Lonsdale), who they fear may be falling into a mental state unfit for his role in carrying on with SC Farb's operation and recovery in France. The sinister Mr. Rose wants Simon to secretly investigate Jüst and to determine the state of his illness.
Simon starts his investigation with Jüst's company files. Discovering only some reports of minor, albeit intriguing, erratic behavior from the CEO, Simon will need to find a way to get closer to Jüst if he's to uncover a true sense of his well-being. To do so, he employs the ruse of assembling employee formed orchestras to help build company morale and seeks out Jüst for both his approval of the idea and also to encourage him to participate. Simon knows that many years ago Jüst played violin in "The Farb Quartet," a group that included Jüst's secretary, a former company sales rep (Lou Castel as Arie Neumann) and SC Farb chemist Jacques Paolini. If Simon can make a connection to Jüst through music, than perhaps his investigation will begin to yield the evidence Karl Rose is looking for. But Jüst is no fool. He has been acutely aware of Simon's toiling for Rose. After toying some with Simon, Jüst challenges him with extremely serious, confidential and compromising information about Rose and about SC Farb that hints at unspeakable crimes against humanity reaching back to WWII.
When Jüst is found alive following a dubious suicide attempt, he calls on Simon out of desperation and presents him with three anonymous letters that were written to him a year earlier. Each letter, all postmarked Le Mans, contain detailed information implicating both Jüst and SC Farb for their allegiance to the Third Reich. When Simon also begins receiving similarly written, anonymous letters that bear the same postmark, he begins digging deeper into the tangled web before him. His perception growing disturbingly chaotic and cloudy, the experience begins to take over his mind, his personal life and his sensibility. With the calm assurance that made him such a rigorous technician beginning to falter, Simon follows a clue left in one of the letters that Jüst gave to him and sets off for Le Mans and an impromptu meeting where blackmail, betrayal, murder and the hierarchy of SC Farb's repressed past will all come to light.
141 min., Unrated
In French with English subtitles
Director of photography
First assistant director
Based on the book
"La Question Humaine"
by François Emmanuel
ROSE MARIE LAUSSON
A Sophie Dulac Production in association with the Centre National de la Cinématographie and Cinécinéma and with the participation of Région Ile-de-France, Région des Pays de la Loire, Conseil Général du Val de Marne and Conseil Général de la Sarthe.