A PRAYER BEFORE DAWN, a trip of sensory percussion – Criticism

A PRAYER BEFORE DAWN tells the true story of Billy Moore, a young English boxer, who was arrested in Bangkok for drug trafficking and incarcerated in a prison in Thailand. Plunged in a terrible nightmare, the young man is going to have to fight to stay alive. Between gangs, violence and drugs, tournaments and Muay-Thai are the opportunity to rise in his condition of the inmate and may be save.

The feature film of Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire is positioned in line with the movies of jail, a true full-fledged genre, it follows a dramatic structure quite a classic. The confrontation of the prison environment hostile followed by integration, which goes through humiliation and submission, then comes a phase of acclimatization is marked by a series of tests, then it is the turn of the ascent, which should lead to a probable emancipation. If the film is not demarcated by its storyline, it shines more by its originality of treatment and its staging. Located somewhere between Midnight Express and A prophet, A PRAYER BEFORE DAWN manages, fortunately, to make people forget about its predecessors.

By opting for a subjective point of view, or even immersive, the director made the choice of a staged very sensory. The soundtrack, remarkably worked, brings a dimension of psychosis that, combined with mounting a hard-hitting and explosive, participates in the development of a trip-sensitive, ultra-violent. An aesthetic that is reminiscent of the trilogy Pusher by Nicolas Winding Refn, a reference to the Danish director that the French grows up in the choice of actor thai, Vithaya Pansringarm, seen in Only God Forgives. And even if it is not the heart of the film, focused more on the initiatory journey of the hero, the social structure of the prison has fascinated the director who recreates a landscape of a prison as realistic as anxiety-provoking. The cell of the samurai with their codes and their rituals, the gym thai boxers become prisoners privileged or the ladyboys, transgendered prisoners, which play an essential role in the sexual life of the micro-society.Film the body, here is the real ambition of Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire. The photography in the film is very organic, the characters are told through their skin marked, their scars and their tattoos. The body is transformed in uniform, sometimes in armor, unique instrument to interact with the other. Billy does not speak the language, it is a body language that is installed. This immediate report and imposes an attitude beastly. The verb is replaced by a violent, primitive, animal.

When subjected to strain, the body becomes the only weapon to survive. Everything passes through him, the integration, the rituals, the humiliation, the atonement, and emancipation. What is playing inside of this iconography carnal this is the ratio of force between the mass and the individual. Marked by a high promiscuity, thai prisons are overcrowded, the frames are constantly saturated with bodies that pile up, collide and mishandle. Billy has to fight to not be overwhelmed by the shapeless mass. Survive in prison is to preserve its individuality against the crowd, which absorbs all of humanity.The immersion in the prison world is harsh, and the developer get us unceremoniously by the neck and plunges us into the midst of this hell of flesh and steel. You can feel the dampness of the prisons in thailand, touching the filth of the dungeons corroded by the bitterness of the sweat of the bodies piled up.

The boxing bouts are characterized formally by a camera in a moving, thundering, the body that is hit, tangle and mingle in a deadly energy. Gradually the plans slide toward a form of abstraction, the speed exalts the body free, which evaporates in the movement.

Aurélien Milhaud

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A PRAYER BEFORE DAWN, a trip of sensory percussion – Critical
Original title : A Prayer Before Dawn

Achievement : Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire

Screenplay : Jonathan Hirschbein, Nick Saltrese

Key players : Joe Cole, Vithaya Pansringarm

Release Date : 20 June 2018

Duration : 2h02min

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