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L'heure de la sortie (2018)

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When Pierre Hoffman integrates the prestigious College St Joseph, it finds among 3th 1 of strange behavior, a hostility diffuse, a deaf violence. Is it because their professor of French has... See full summary »


Sébastien Marnier


Christophe Dufosse (novel), Elise Griffon (collaboration) | 3 more credits »
1 win. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Laurent Lafitte ... Pierre
Emmanuelle Bercot ... Catherine
Luàna Bajrami Luàna Bajrami ... Apolline
Victor Bonnel Victor Bonnel ... Dimitri
Pascal Greggory Pascal Greggory ... Poncin
Véronique Ruggia Véronique Ruggia ... Françoise (as Véronique Ruggia Saura)
Gringe Gringe ... Steve
Grégory Montel Grégory Montel ... Michel
Thomas Scimeca ... Victor
Thomas Guy Thomas Guy ... Brice
Adèle Castillon Adèle Castillon ... Clara
Matteo Perez Matteo Perez ... Sylvain
Leopold Buchsbaum Leopold Buchsbaum ... David
Thelma Doval Thelma Doval ... Johanna
Capucine Valmary Capucine Valmary ... Lucie


When Pierre Hoffman integrates the prestigious College St Joseph, it finds among 3th 1 of strange behavior, a hostility diffuse, a deaf violence. Is it because their professor of French has just to throw by the window in full-course? Because they are a class pilot of gifted children and therefore harassed by other students? Because they have lost all hope in the future of the world? Written by Hugo Van Herpe

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Release Date:

9 January 2019 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

School's Out See more »

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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

Too ambiguous for its own good
28 November 2018 | by BertautSee all my reviews

Based on Christophe Dufosse's 2002 novel, L'Heure de la sortie (lit. trans. The Time to Exit) had its world premiere at the 2018 Venice Film Festival where it screened in the new "Sconfini" section, a non-competition category for difficult-to-classify films. Which should tell you a great deal. If you can imagine the ecological themes of films such as Take Shelter (2011) or First Reformed (2017), filtered through the milieu of Dead Poets Society (1989), but with the tonal qualities of the original versions of Village of the Damned (1960) or Children of the Corn (1984), then you'd be some way towards nailing director and co-writer Sébastien Marnier's second feature. Is it a satire about liberal Generation Z snowflakes overdramatically reading apocalyptic omens into trivial matters? Is it an allegory about how difficult it can be for gifted children to fit into so-called normal society? Is it a metaphor for the generation gap, and how today's children can often be alienated from even relatively young adults? Is it about desensitisation amongst a generation who have never known life without the internet or a world without post-9/11 paranoia? Is it a desperate call-to-arms, a plea on behalf of tomorrow's adults that humanity is rapidly reaching the point-of-no-return in terms of the damage we are doing to the Earth?

When a teacher at a private middle school in France throws himself to his death in front of his students, Pierre Hoffman (Laurent Lafitte) arrives as his replacement. He soon begins to notice odd behaviour amongst a central clique of six especially gifted students, and starts following them, learning that they head to an abandoned quarry every day after school, where they have hidden a collection of DVDs. Upon viewing the discs, Pierre finds they contain endless hours of footage of industrial animal slaughter and food processing intercut with images of nuclear conflagrations, flashes of apocalyptic biblical imagery, and dire warnings about the unsustainable future of humanity. Unnerved by his find, he soon comes to believe the clique are watching him, and may even have been involved in some way with the previous teacher's suicide.

If you're looking for definitive answers here, you won't get them. Virtually none of the mysteries the film throws up, of which there are a hell of a lot, are conclusively resolved. The film is happy for you to peer inside, but Marnier steadfastly refuses to give you much info to contextualise what you're looking at, as the film is far more interested in asking questions than answering them. There are certainly clues about what it all means, and the audience is pushed in certain directions from time to time, but even the final scene, although it does suggest some answers, also raises more questions.

In theory, I don't have a problem with this kind of narrative. Films built around ambiguity, where certain details are withheld, and everything is left up to subjective interpretation, can work extremely well (after all, one of my all-time favourite films is Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life (2011)). However, the mysteries of L'Heure de la sortie are very different to those found in Malick, or, say, David Lynch's Lost Highway (1997) or Mulholland Dr. (2001). Whilst Lynch's films tend to function as sensory puzzles, where the audience must bend their interpretation around what is on screen, with every little aural and visual detail meaning something (and often more than one thing) in relation to the whole, L'Heure de la sortie is more of an intellectual conundrum, asking question after question without time to pause, and then stepping back and asking, finally, "so what did you think I was trying to say there?"

Speaking to Cineuropa of one possible interpretation of the film, (namely, the ecological one - that this generation is gifting to the next a planet we have largely destroyed, something about which we're not overly bothered), Marnier states, "we are aware but we're not fighting anymore - not just because we feel let down by politicians. I think the world has become so scary that we take refuge in our little lives, trying to make them as pleasant as possible." The clique act as if they have no hope for the future, and that they firmly believe the world left for them (their "era" as they call it) will throw up problems the likes of which humanity will be unable to overcome. Of this meaning, Marnier explains, "the film states that we are still waiting for the disaster to happen so that "living together" and collective awareness can take shape again. But we need to work together before it's too late." The clique don't share this optimism, believing too much damage has already been done. In fact, they believe that optimism itself is part of the problem; as one points out, "it's too late, there's no future. You don't want to face the truth."

As this might suggest, the film tackles political and social themes infinitely more weighty than those typically found in Lynch (who tends to focus on psychological issues), but as an artistic statement, I found it lacking. And whereas the absence of any obvious directorial or authorial "statement" in Lynch's work is actually part of what makes it so successful, here, due to the various political themes raised, the question of "what is the director trying to say" remains front-and-centre the entire time. I rarely ask myself that question when watching a Lynch film, or a Malick film, or a Guy Maddin film; I might ask it afterwards, but during the experiential moment, the artistry becomes its own referent. During L'Heure de la sortie, I was constantly wondering to myself, "what does Marnier mean by that?", something I don't even do when viewing the work of a politically allegorical filmmaker such as Peter Greenaway. The narrative throws so much gasoline on the fire that it burns itself out. By roughly the half-way point, I had stopped caring why the teacher had killed himself, because there were about fifteen other unanswered questions rattling about. And it's a case of ever diminishing returns - the more mysteries that go unaddressed, the less important each of them feels.

But it's not just that there are too many mysteries. Again, this can work well in the right hands. Rather, it's that few of them ever connect to the others. Take, for example, the hobo scene in Mulholland Dr. For much of the runtime, it seems completely divorced from everything else in the film. But we do eventually learn how it relates to the main plot, even if it remains ambiguous. L'Heure de la sortie is full of what feels like completely disconnected mysteries. There's also little to reward the patient or observant viewer. with so much feeling like it exists in isolation from everything else.

Which is not to say there is nothing to like about the film. The 1980s-style retro score, by John Carpenter aficionados Zombie Zombie, is excellent, and Romain Carcanade's cinematography is superb, using anamorphic lenses to distort interiors in tandem with Pierre's crumpling mental state, and really hammering home how monumentally hot it's supposed to be, using a recurring visual motif of beads of sweat. Additionally, there are some wonderful touches in the screenplay, co-written by Marnier and Elise Griffon. For example, Pierre is writing a thesis on Franz Kafka and his apartment is invaded by cockroaches.

There are also individual scenes of great brilliance. For all its unsettling weirdness and creepy kids, for me, the most disturbing scene was one based entirely in reality. When an alarm sounds in the school, Pierre asks if it's a fire drill, and the class all but laugh at the question. Of course it isn't a fire drill - it's an active shooter drill. The students calmly gather their things and move to the wall, sitting under the windows looking into the corridor. However, when Pierre joins them, they chastise him, not once, but twice - firstly, for leaving his own things on his desk, meaning if a shooter walks by, they will look in and know someone is in there, and secondly, he forgets to turn his phone onto airplane mode. The scene is chillingly effective in it profound mundanity, not only showing us their accustomed and dispassionate response, but in hammering home the very different lives that people of Pierre's age led when they were in school. Obviously, this speaks to the generation divide, but it also speaks to issues of desensitisation; the state of the world has sufficiently traumatised these children to the point where something like this is routine; the possibility that a shooter might wander into a school and start killing people is not something any child (in any country) should live with.

All in all though, despite these elements, the film left me disappointed. It builds up very nicely in the early stages, but about mid-way through the second act, it flounders, as you start to realise it's not actually building to anything specific. Even the dénouement is insipid (although the short coda that ends the film is excellent). The characterisation is also poor, with only Pierre given any kind of arc, whilst the children themselves remain empty avatars, devoid of psychological verisimilitude. I'm also not entirely convinced that if you want to prod people into action vis-à-vis climate change, the best way to go about it is by presenting a mystery-thriller that has no intentions of explaining what is going on - the vehicle just doesn't correlate with the message. It's worth a look, but given the scope of the themes and the nature of the central message, you would hope for a lot more.

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