Let’s open the ball with Fabienne Bradfer, who writes in Le Soir about the emotions she felt when viewing the opener of the Namur FiFF: “Illégal is like a slap in the face. Even more because it describes a situation happening just a few kilometres away from our lives, but it does that based on a real field investigation, looking more for the human journey than the political burden. Empathy for Tania’s character comes immediately. Because this young Russian woman without trouble, it could be us in another world. With her, we share the fear, the humiliation, the questions without answers, the mistrust, the waiting, the uncertainties and this feeling of powerlessness stemming from being locked up. We find ourselves in a concrete expression of a dramatic human reality.”
Same noise on the RTBF website ; “Another merit of the film is that it avoids manicheism: we aren’t watching a power struggle between the bad prison guards and a nice immigrant; the film maker denounces a system and human beings who are victims of a system, more than people in particular. In that sense, yes ’Illégal’ is certainly a committed film, but not blindly militant: no character is there just to carry a cursory or caricatural message…”
Fernand Denis also joins the choir of praise. The fine observer of all things filmed for more than 30 years now, a high-profile reviewer in La Libre can’t deny his enthusiasm. Reading him , we aren’t surprised by the Bayard d’Or Anne Coesens received in Namur for her excellent performance.
“Very concrete, realistic, ’Illégal’ seems to on the opposite of the first film by this young director from Charleroi: ’Cages’ introduces a woman in love, prisoner of her silence, in a baroque, almost fantastical way. Stylistically speaking, there is not much in common between ’Cages’ and ’Illégal’. But on a basic level, they share the same theme of imprisonment, personal and cerebral on one side, universal and visceral on the other. They also share the fantastic Anne Coesens. Locked up in her silence in ’Cages’, this time she is locked up in a tower of Babel, two situations she takes on with the same rage to find a way out as improbable as a well-balanced governmental agreement. Each time, she takes the viewer along with her, she throws herself into her role without holding back that much, but without hysterics, too. This actress both has the violence of a total commitment and the restraint of sincere acting, modest, away from performing.”
We could go on and on with this tour, but we would quickly repeat ourselves, because the qualities addresses are often the same, the warm words more or less the same in all media. To end though, let’s share the review written by Sarah Pialeprat on Cinergie , as she takes the film analysis a little further, given how the format and audience of that medium allow it.
“By choosing to lock himself up inside the four walls of a prison (just about the only location in this film), by filming as close as possible, by paying attention to the tiniest details, the film maker manages to capture the smallest breath, the smallest emotion. But this voluntarily stifling and oppressive directing is countered by a dynamism which, at every moment, takes us and surprises us with its nice ways out. And even if despair becomes tactile, if unjustified violence grabs us, we get a softness, a vibration of life from Illégal that the camera manages to translate thanks to the proximity and the intimacy linking the film maker to the deeply moving characters.”
We channel Sarah once more to end nicely (making it easier for us): “If Illégal is a political film, it is not necessarily a film with a message wanting to impose a pragmatic discourse. If Illégal is profoundly political, it is because it questions identity, and what it means to be human. It is by the strength of cinema that it finds the truth about its necessary relationship with politics.”