Light and frothy this is not. Complex and dense is more accurate. Political intrigue done in an unusual way. Weird is the word that best sums up Pierre Schoeller’s film. Weird, but absorbing. It gives us commoners a view into the backstage goings on in the world of high level politics.
In the middle of the night, Bertrand Saint-Jean (Olivier Gourmet – is awakened from his peaceful slumber by the ringing of his phone. The voice on the other end tells him that there has been a bus carrying passengers that has crashed into a ravine. Once he gets his wits about him Bertrand, the Minster of Transport in France, knows that he will have to make statements about the deaths of women and children.
A man who is in politics for pure reasons (he believes he can make a difference and help people) the accident and subsequent investigation and media coverage leads to Bertrand’s descent into becoming the type of politician he has always despised. Bertrand is now being forced to compromise what he believes in time and time again and making dodgy deals to get what he wants. It is a time of economic crisis in France and power struggles are going on behind the scene like never before.
The message of the film is that all of us, no matter how inherently good, can be, under the right circumstances, morally vacuous.
Olivier Gourmet is wonderful. He fully conveys how politics is able to make a good man bad. Bertrand is in public service because he wants to help people. How naïve. As a result, Gourmet’s Bertrand is a crushed, lonely and disillusioned man. He finds himself struggling between the façade of his public persona and the reality of the man he truly is. The personal side of Gourmet’s character is what is most interesting. Seeing if he is able to as a man withstand all the pressure heaped upon him and still do the right thing. All these conflicting emotions and chaos is done marvelously by Gourmet.
While the film did well at Cannes this year and it does, despite the fact that it is about politics and politicians, manage to keep my attention, but it is not without its flaws. There were too many stereotypes (of political types, etc) for my liking. The paintbrush strokes that Schoeller uses to depict politicians are quite broad and too convenient for my liking. It definitely isn’t a farce that Schoeller is constructing, but some of these politicians have such predictable behavior with their scheming, backroom deals and leering at women that it became almost laughable at a certain point. Another problem was the amount of concentration the film takes. With all the sub-plots going on my head was whirling a bit.
As a note to the curious people out there the scene with the naked woman and the crocodile happens in a dream sequence in the very beginning of the film.