Paris of our days. A group of young people distributed in different places of the city seem to be preparing a big blow prior to their appointment in a department store at night. After his biopic majestic about Yves Saint-Laurent and his foray into a brothel (The apollonide), Bertrand Bonello makes a comeback with a film cathartic and resolutely contemporary.
The first plan of Paris seen from the sky opens the film and sets the scene in all its greatness and its emptiness. After the open space we are immersed in another space, the underground metro, where we follow characters in a ballet accurate. The web is woven little by little, slowly, in the absence of dialogues where only the gestures foreshadow the action to come. The characters move with the use of plastic bags, break into a large building of the defence, while another is makes suit and tie to the Ministry of the interior. Nothing seems to link them if not their looks worried and focused on their mobile phone that they eventually throw in turn into garbage. We guess the worst-nothing to see except for their movements, their movements. Only a few flash-back arise to draw the contours of their encounter. The group formed is immediately unusual and almost improbable by their social mix and their age difference (15 to 30 years). After the series of explosions in different places in strategic and highly symbolic, they all meet at the big store where waiting for another of their accomplice. They seek refuge there, walking around, waiting for the result. What next ? They prefer to see nothing of their attack. They know that the event is huge and it’s enough for them. Regardless of the media treatment and spectacular that turns the tvs. They do not act for the show.
NOCTURAMA is built in two parts : the implementation of the attack the day, the hideout in the big store the night. Bonello is more interested in the autopsy emotional to this day as the genesis of their project. He filmed their passage to the act in all that it has to be both mundane (in the sense of anti-spectacular, it is far from the american movies) and dizzying (no turning back). Everything is slow, repetitive, almost boring by the time. Bonello films the faces, the gestures, the body in action. No explanation is given, nothing being claimed, but we understand very quickly that the group is closer to Direct Action than Daesh… The only political argument is nestled in a flashback scene, where Andrew (a student in political science) explains to Sarah the plan to follow for the essay and gives the example of one on the totalitarian states in concluding that certain democracies are totalitarian states in disguise. Sarah would later add “it would blow up Facebook and the MEDEF”.
“Nocturama is a film that is loud and disturbing, that re-interprets the terrorism version revolutionary, and the inevitable insurgency running.”
Arrived in the big store, the protagonists are allowed to roam freely. Again, each exists outside of the group, and saw this waiting in its own way. No rampage easy or party pop. Sabrina changes the top and serves on the healthy with nonchalance. Omar puts the music in the background. André observes the exit opportunities. As always with Bonello, there are true moments of grace like this silence chilling where the filmmaker does not care that the choreography of the body suspended in this endless waiting, or even the scene where Yacine masked sings “My way“. This great store embodies to him all alone the neo-liberalism cruel and vector inequalities, but also of dreams and illusions against which they revolt.
Bonello likes to shoot the body ghosts, those that roam and haunt us until they become something organic to return one of the titles of the filmmaker – one recalls, moreover, the retrospective and the exhibition devoted to Bonello at Centre Pompidou in 2014, who presented his “phantom films“, those who had never seen the light of day (two variations based on the VERTIGO ’Hitchcock and his Madeleine). Here again, Bonello summon ghostly apparitions such as those of these two mannequins wearing the same clothes as Yacine, and Andrew. Composer before being a filmmaker, Bonello seeks the music, the sound of beings. He captures their faces, their expressions, follows close behind to better connect us to them. The group of young people, little by little, shape, body because Bonello knows better than anyone the filming of the group as a sum of singularities (that are also reflected in The apollonide). Interpreted by Finnegan Oldfield (that one could discover in a Gang Bang or The Cowboys), Vincent Rottiers (Dheepan) and young unknown actors, the characters of NOCTURAMA , are all wonderfully alive as untamed.
The strength of Bonello is to make this expectation cathartic even if it is not to be identified really to the characters. It takes us straight to the heart of the temporality of the musical and intoxicating, beyond any judgment. It is this slowness that is born of a true catharsis which reaches its climax in a final oppressive and almost unbearable. With NOCTURAMA, Bertrand Bonello delivers a film strong and upsetting on the passage to the act, the cohesion and commitment, tinged with innocence. A film “life to death“ which re-interprets the terrorism version revolutionary, and the inevitable insurgency running.
Anne Laure Farges
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• Original title : Nocturama
• Achievement : Bertrand Bonello
• Screenplay : Bertrand Bonello
• Main players : Finnegan Oldfield, Vincent Rottiers, Hamza Meziani
• Country of origin : France, Germany, Belgium
• Released : August 31, 2016
• Duration : 2h10min
• Distributor : Wild Bunch Distribution