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Qu'ils reposent en révolte (Des figures de guerre) (2010)

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Ode, in black and white, to immigrants, from Calais, from elsewhere.


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Title: Qu'ils reposent en révolte (Des figures de guerre) (2010)

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Ode, in black and white, to immigrants, from Calais, from elsewhere.

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Release Date:

16 November 2011 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Figuras de guerra  »

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User Reviews

Eternal outcasts.
5 May 2011 | by (Buenos Aires, Argentina) – See all my reviews

A grand-scope experimental documentary about illegal immigrants in Europe, about their journey into Europe, their expectations and reality, and their methods to evade the law and fight deportation. Sylvain George captured himself all of these images through a span of five years, and from the sounds of it, we still haven't seen anything.

Some of the images, situations and testimonies are absolutely superb, I have to say. We hear many of these immigrants talking about their experience being stranded in a wayward boat in the Mediterranean Sea for weeks, we see them burn their fingerprints away in an almost ritualistic fashion involving them holding bright-red screws and metal shards, we see some brutal, in-detail confrontation with the French police, and more elements divided into many narratively unrelated sequences, told through this raw, highly-contrasted black and white photography, this strangely grimy editing, with sudden freeze-frames, black gaps and a back-and-forth montage between images that seem to belong of different times and places altogether, paired with a very harsh soundtrack made mostly out of heavily processing the ambient sounds in each location, occasionally bursting into sheer white noise produced by an amalgamation of heavily amplified field recordings, such as trucks, waves on a beach and the likes. Merzbow would be proud. The fact that there is no actual music or narration which tries to empathize with these characters also helps enormously in keeping a distant, observational point of view rather than become engrossed in their journey. In many ways it just lets the characters speak for themselves, and in the end you end up strongly sympathizing with them, but never feel pushed to doing so by the aesthetic devices the film employs.

There is one major fault with the film, though, which is that it is not only too long for something of its nature (155 minutes), but feels interminable as well. I credit this fault to the particular structure the film uses, in which we are offered with several five to ten-minute sequences that fade in and out from a black space, and which are united through little more than a thematic arc. All of these sequences hold value entirely on their own merit, they almost feel like they're independent of a more global structure, be it narrative or thematic, almost like a series of short films. They're not linked by linearity or events or people, they depict stories of people who are in a same situation but probably never once heard of the other, let alone saw each other face-to-face, and the fact that all of these sequences are unified by black spaces makes it impossible for the viewer to get a proper sense of closure or development at any part of the film. By the time you feel you've had enough, you're still never sure if that fade-out will not fade back in to yet another sequence, and so you find yourself with no idea of when the film may stop or for how long you've been watching, and hoping for the last ten-to-twenty fade-outs that that will be the last one. At a time I literally felt that I had misread its running time and that it was in fact somewhere along the four-hour mark instead.

Nevertheless, it is a hugely interesting watch, and I probably would've been even more fascinated had I seen this in chunks and not from start to finish.

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