Denis revisits Africa, this time exploring a place rife with civil and racial conflict. A white French family outlawed in its home and attempting to save its coffee plantation connects with... See full summary »
Georges and Anne are an octogenarian couple. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, also a musician, lives in Britain with her family. One day, Anne has a stroke, and the couple's bond of love is severely tested.
A married couple are faced with a difficult decision - to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer's disease.
A woman's life is derailed en route to a potentially lucrative summer job. When her car breaks down, and her dog is taken to the pound, the thin fabric of her financial situation comes ... See full summary »
Denis revisits Africa, this time exploring a place rife with civil and racial conflict. A white French family outlawed in its home and attempting to save its coffee plantation connects with a black hero also embroiled in the tumult. All try to survive as their world rapidly crumbles around them Written by
Pusan International Film Festival
The role played here by Isabelle Huppert is not dissimilar to the lead character in Doris Lessing's 1950 novel "The Grass is Singing". Huppert always wanted to play that part but Karen Black beat her to it when she appeared in Michael Raeburn's 1981 adaptation. See more »
At times interesting and shocking, but it could have been better...
I read through a couple reviews before I watched "White Material" and noticed that they pointed out that the film never says where the action is taking place--other than it's in a French-speaking part of Africa where they grow coffee. I thought it could be the Ivory Coast, Burundi or Cameroon--and when I checked IMDb, I saw it was filmed in Cameroon--though whether this is where the film is supposed to be set is uncertain. My bet is that it's just supposed to be a metaphor for ALL of colonial Africa and the drive over the last 60 years to take back the continent for Africans--so the language could have been English and the plantation could have been growing any one of a number of crops. In hindsight, I think the movie probably should have identified the country, as without a clear context, the film is a bit vague and difficult for many viewers.
As far as the film goes, it's like a snippet of film with little context. Who is fighting who, what has occurred that set the stage for the movie and who the people are in the film really isn't important for the filmmakers. This makes it difficult to connect with the people. Should you admire or hate the leading lady (Isabel Huppert)? Is her obsession with saving her plantation and bringing in the next coffee crop justified or not? What's going on with her family--the ex-husband, the son, the father, etc.? The film really doesn't have a lot to say about any of this. And, like not knowing where the film takes place, is something that many viewers may feel frustrated about as connecting with the people is very difficult.
None of this is to say that this is a bad film--but it does prevent it from being an exceptional film. It's interesting but could have said a lot more. It is a very, very quiet and slow film--which is interesting considering the country is racked with violence and chaos. Because of this, I really felt the film was limiting its appeal--which is a shame, as colonialism and its aftermath are really important topics for movies but are seldom discussed. Plus, while repulsive, the violence and seeing child soldiers is, unfortunately, not that uncommon on the continent and worth discussing.
By the way, although it's not gratuitous or salacious, the film has a bit of full-frontal male nudity. Also, not surprisingly, late in the film there is some pretty horrific violence. Just be forewarned.
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