- 2h 4m
Under threat in Algeria, Ismahel emigrates to France where he wants to live and work, with the hope that the people he's fleeing from will forget him the time he is away. In the letters that... Read allUnder threat in Algeria, Ismahel emigrates to France where he wants to live and work, with the hope that the people he's fleeing from will forget him the time he is away. In the letters that he writes to the daughter that he left behind in his homeland, he tells his own story in ... Read allUnder threat in Algeria, Ismahel emigrates to France where he wants to live and work, with the hope that the people he's fleeing from will forget him the time he is away. In the letters that he writes to the daughter that he left behind in his homeland, he tells his own story in the guise of the biblical tale of Jonas and the Whale. Somewhere in France, an elderly far... Read all
- (as Emile Breton)
The second, alternating narrative strain is the more detailed, complex, and dramatically intimate story of a funeral gathering for the younger son of a well-to-do French farming family whose aging patriarch, Serge (played by Michael Lonsdale) takes ill, or perhaps simply prepares to die himself, or loses the will to continue living, once the funeral gathering is well under way. This story itself alternates scenes involving individual members of the family who come together in the country for the funeral with another related but separate sequence of scenes in which a serene old priest coaches a troubled curé who is to officiate at the funeral.
Once one's aware of these various strains it becomes clear that 'Adieu' is a long, intentionally solemn and disturbing meditation on death, the existence of God, the existence of evil in the world (whereupon even insect behavior -- a very relevant consideration -- is brought into the discussion), and (an especially pressing manifestation of that evil) the international class system by which certain people are non-persons and certain countries are de facto judged as inferior for arbitrary economic reasons. One of the central issues is hospitality, which des Pallières obviously doesn't think rich countries have to offer in its true form: asking nothing of the stranger who arrives and making him welcome.
In presenting all this des Pallières relies on presenting processes and rituals in detail and at length -- including the factory assembling the truck in the overture; the funeral; the digging of a hole to bury a dead pig by a farmer, and so on. Eventually it may be des Pallières' intention to make us see everything as both process and ritual. These rituals become meditations on the problematic nature of all being in the world. The director also relies on a sound collaboration with composer Martin Wheeler that involves the use of background noise and music which at times, from the very beginning, assume a menacing crescendo-diminuendo quality and are as independent of the action seen on the screen as the two stories of Ismael and the funeral are independent of each other. We're left to work out the interrelations for ourselves.
"A sumptuous, organic, symphonic film," a commentator for the Clermont-Ferrand film festival wrote. 'Adieu's' elegance and emotional effect owe something not only to the eloquent texts of conversation and voice-over and the solemn, almost epic movement but to a strong cast that besides the veteran Lonsdale includes Olivier Gourmet, Laurent Lucas, and Aurore Clément. Its use of alienation effects does not keep it from being involving because of the sheer humanity and intensity of the subject matter.
'Adieu' is an extremely interesting, deeply passionate and obsessive film, but also an austere one whose slow movement and fragmented construction are bound to alienate and strain the patience of many viewers. It has had a warm reception by French critics, who mention Bresson and Godard, but a less enthusiastic one by some members of the audience, who accuse it of being insipid, a bluff, and, inevitably, pretentious.
The film is distributed in France by ACID, "L'Agence du Cinéma Indépendent pour Sa Diffusion," an organization committed to enabling truly independent film-making to find a larger audience.
Seen November 2004, posted on IMDb May 2008.
- Chris Knipp
- May 21, 2008