Cannes film festival 2019, day 3: a child in my head, a genie in my stomach
The third day of the festival finally brought the emotions that thousands of journalists come to Cannes every year. Kantemir Balagov, a young Russian director who shone with the moving "Nearness" in "Beanpole" ordered the audience to hold their breath. In turn, Mati Diop, a Frenchwoman with Senegalese roots, presented her feature debut "Atlantique".
It is 1945. Leningrad is slowly rising after the war. The siege destroyed the city. Today, life means that you know for sure how it feels to lose your loved ones. Children don't know what a dog looks like - they were all eaten during the siege. Demolished buildings can be rebuilt over time, but the devastated psyche cannot always be glued together into a healthy whole. Iya (Wiktoria Miroszniczenko), who was dismissed from service before the end of the war due to post-traumatic complications, knows this perfectly well.
Once in a while, a tall and slender girl, due to her appearance called by the companions the "Pole", "hangs". She falls silent, loses contact with reality, makes guttural sounds, and her body contracts a contraction. Despite this, Iya manages to keep her job in the post-traumatic hospital ward. Patients, as well as Chief Mikołaj Iwanowicz (Andrey Bykov) appreciate her gentleness and empathy. A tiny, maybe three-year-old Paszka is waiting for her at home. Initially, the viewer thinks that the boy is the son of the heroine, but we soon discover that his mother is a friend of "Tyczka", Masha (Vasylis Pereligin). The return of the woman from the front coincides with an unexpected tragedy. The heart of the film is the evolution of relationships between friends - seemingly passive, withdrawn Iya and engaging, sometimes manic, mentally unstable Masha.
As the artist says, the direct inspiration for the film was the book of the Nobel laureate Svetlana Aleksijewicz, "War has nothing of a woman". After reading it, he realized how little he knew about what survivors like his heroines were going through. He did his homework in psychology for five with a plus. "Beanpole" could serve as an illustration of the dictionary term "trauma". With an unusual sense, the desperate hunger for life collides with extreme fatigue, moments of vitality with exhaustion and apathy. Confidence clashes with doubt, contempt is mixed with pride. The valuation systems turn upside down. Fate has no Joker in the deck for the heroines.
This film is a voice against the war, its senselessness, the cruel harm it inflicts on people and the world - especially women. There is one shocking scene in it that proves that Balagow is an extraordinary talent that flourishes before our eyes. For now, definitely lead the race for the prize in the Un Certain Regard section.
As with Balagów, so are Mati Diop women in the center. There is no war going on in Senegalese Dakar, but to say that this city in crisis would not be abusive. Young people have not been paid for work on the construction of a giant skyscraper for three months. Reminiscent of skyscrapers from the "Android Hunter", the building towers over a city covered with dust and smog. For the rich investor Ndiaye (Diankou Sembene), the missing amount is a matter of one less business trip, but young Suleiman (Traore) already has such a long debt that he must return to his own home after dark. This stress is perfectly understood by his chosen heart Ada (Mame Bineta Sane).
Coming from an artistic family, the former actress Diop mixes conventions very interestingly. Atlantique is on the one hand a realistic social cinema, on the other it moves in the space of magic, secrets and jinn. I like the naturalness with which the director weaves supernatural elements into the film's tissue, without unnecessary stalks and introductions. The viewer proposes the same approach. As if magic and ghosts are something as obvious as eating or sleeping. Attention is also paid to the way young women are shown on the screen, definitely in contrast to the stereotypical representations of young African women. The heroines are independent, connected with the world, dressed in a modern way, outspoken. And yet they are still restricted by traditional canons and conventions. Ada gathers strength for a long time to fight them. However, she must do it - her welfare is at stake. It appeals to read "Atlantique" as a tale of connection with what is unconscious and repressed.
Diop does not quite control his material, the film has several shoals several times: lengths, screenplays, and above all excessive sentence and emotional kitsch. However, I admired the courage of the director debuting in the long film and the uncompromising approach to complex material.
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