“O thou invisible spirit of wine, if thou hast no name to be known by, let us call thee devil.” — William Shakespeare.

“Who is this man?” I asked myself after screening film after film with Niels Arestrup in sharp focus. The ubiquitous Arestrup seems to be in all the great European films that roll on the screen at Waterville’s Railroad Square Cinema.

Arestrup is the hero of my age group. He carries no gun, shakes his martinis and has no naked beauty in his bed. But with a roaring mane of white hair and chilling green eyes, he works in whispers and rarely raises his voice. He is a major European character star, and if you don’t know him from “War Horse,” “Sarah’s Key” and “The Diving Bell and Butterfly,” you will now in Gilles Legrand’s amazing psychological thriller, “You Will be My Son.”

We find ourselves in the gorgeous St. Emilion wine country on the vast vineyards and estate of one of Frances’s premier vintners, Paul de Marseul. This Eden of vines is so lushly photographed by Yves Angelo that no passer-by would suspect that dark familial secrets, jealousy and ancient rage cling to the walls of its cellars like mold.

Paul, wealthy and successful with his inherited art, is a cranky old soul who is uncomfortable with the new ways of bringing the grape to life. He barely acknowledges the expertise of his well-educated son Martin (Lorant Deutsch) who is trying to bring the estate into the 21st century. In fact, he suffers him as a necessary fool and treats him with contempt. Martin, with his computers and smart phones, lives on the estate in a cottage he shares with his lovely and strong-willed pregnant wife, Alice (Anne Marivin).

In another cottage, Paul’s old friend of 40 years, master vintner and caretaker of the land, Francois (a great Patrick Chesnais) is living out the last days of his life with terminal cancer. Son Martin, of course, expects that he will soon take over these reins and eventually, the famous estate.

Every ointment, even a palatable pinot noir, attracts a troublesome fly, and here he comes. The caretaker’s handsome and successful son Philippe (Nicolas Bridet) has been in America with Francis Coppola’s wineries and now considers coming home.

Pere Paul embraces him as a prodigal son. Philippe is a charming, forceable personality, and Paul immediately begins to groom him as his heir, to the obvious chagrin of Martin and Alice.

Now Paul’s deep, dark sadistic soul, pimpled with lascivious asides to his daughter-in-law, and shocking insults to his wounded son, begins to emerge. He blatantly lavishes attention on the new boy in house, even taking him to Paris for a reception in his honor, and introducing him as his son. When it is reported in the local press, Martin is stunned and the old caretaker is shocked.

Enough foreshadowing, one or two perhaps a bit conspicuous, have been provided that we can imagine a tragedy of some kind will explode. And indeed one does, but not one we have been expecting.

Legrand’s script, co-written with Delphine de Vigan, is a beauty to behold, giving all the players just the right amount of cards to play their game.

Deutsch, as the tortured son Martin, plays his hand nicely. Bridet, as the interloping Philippe, offers just the perfect combination of nice guy/ambitious guy colors to his part.

Chesnais, a strong fixture in France’s film world, has a powerful hand in the final scenes, where a torturous decision must be made.

Marivin, in her every role, even in small ones as in 2006’s “Tell No One,” glows with intelligence and street smarts.

But it is Arestrup who dominates the film. He is a force of nature who, in every role he takes, delivers a controlled, professional performance in a role that is about control, control of a wine growing empire, control of a family secret and his own mind that is disintegrating as we watch.

Film fans and oenophiles alike will find themselves deliciously lost in the sun bleached vineyards and ancient cellars where wine and blood are spilled, and where life ends with the extinguishing of a candle.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and screen actor

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