March 13, 2016

Hope and violence

Dheepan (Jacques Audiard, 2015). Sadly, most of us in the west don’t know a lot about the specifics of the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan civil war – probably even less than we knew about the Bougainville conflict that produced Mister Pip – which might actually help Jacques Audiard’s powerful Dheepan, which debuted at Cannes last May and controversially won the Palme d’Or over Carol, The Assassin and Son of Saul, find wider application as an unexpectedly topical French refugee thriller. An ex-Tamil guerrilla fighter, a woman and a girl form a makeshift family in a Sri Lankan refugee camp and, using found identities, make their way to a housing estate in France, which is not exactly paradise (maybe the UK will be). It’s a humane and detailed account of the struggles of relocation and resettlement with wonderful performances by the Sri Lankan trio of Antonythasan Jesuthan, Kalieaswari Srinivasan and Claudine Vinasithamby, and French actor Vincent Rottiers as the tragic gang leader Brahim, and while I know that some disagree with the sudden, nearly overwhelming eruption of violence that is hinted at throughout, the danger and proximity of violence – which is far from celebratory or glamourised – was also an important part of Audiard’s cinematic language in his best films, A Prophet and The Beat That My Heart Skipped, both of which feel connected to this one in their blends of dark pessimism and romantic hope and a liberal concern with social conditions.