‘Athena’: Romain Gavras films the spark of a hypothetical civil war in France | Culture

A prodigious 12-minute sequence shot opens an incendiary film about the spark of the French Revolution. Not that of 1789, but another one, perhaps yet to come, which could just as well be a revolution as it could turn into a civil war. The very ambitious bet of Romain Gavras, son of Costa-Gavras, in athena It develops, basically, appealing to the need for justice and, at the same time, dictating its impossibility due to the rottenness of the system and the harassment of the extreme right. Meanwhile, in the form, the sequence shot is his hallmark of style, with a choreography of violence in a French marginal neighborhood, which accompanies his main characters with agility, elegance, spectacularity and criteria. Perhaps with such brilliance that, in some moments, it ends up burying the story somewhat, always below the visualization.

A Gavras, in his third job as a director, accompanies him in the script and production Ladj Ly, author of The Miserables, jury prize at the 2019 Cannes festival, and focused, as Athena, in social conflicts banlieues, and inspired, of course, in the work of Victor Hugo. And their presence is noticeable, in a story with traces of Greek tragedy, of confrontation between Muslim brothers, one of them, leader of the violent protest, another, enlisted in the army, and a third, the eldest, who has long been where command is in drug trafficking. All of them raised in these immigration ghettos. Second or third generation French broken by xenophobia, abandonment and fury. The fourth brother, the youngest, barely 13 years old, is the dead man who lights the fuse. He has died after a beating that went viral and was perpetrated, it is not known whether by the police or by far-right groups. This is France, Gavras and Ly tell us.

Despite everything, it is athena a film more physical than political. In which the sensations stand out more than the reflections, even if they exist. An experience that borders on the immersive due to the use of expressive staging, the movements of the masses around the camera and the revolts of its main characters, who come and go, forming an amazing dance of death, fist and destruction. , while battling riot police with iron-clad combat credibility and hate. A Netflix production, which premieres today exclusively through its platform after being presented in the official section of the recent Venice festival, which is only somewhat clouded by the excessive beauty of one of the sequences: a pitched battle in a space open in front of the peeling towers of the suburbs, in which the shots and Molotov cocktails become colorful fireworks, with bombastic music in the background and the riot police with their shields drawing a Roman formation. Aestheticism is there, a millimeter away.

From the other side, from the system and, above all, from the longing extreme right, eager for situations like this to spread their warnings and their solutions, their speech is quite different: “Those places are governed by camels or by fundamentalists. Sometimes for both.” Hugo’s Les Miserables. Ly’s wretches. The Wretches of Gavras. Who wave their tricolor flag, like liberty leading the people in Delacroix’s painting, although this time, in a paradigmatic image —this one, yes, the most powerful in the film—, mounted on a recently stolen police van, with the doors open , carrying the bodies outside, shooting into the wind and wearing official helmets. The last social debacle, the new French revolution.

ATHENA

Address: Romain Gavras.

Interpreters: Dali Benssalah, Sami Slimane, Anthony Bajon, Alexis Manenti.

Gender: drama. France, 2022.

Duration: 99 minutes.

Platform: Netflix.

Premiere: September 23.

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