Is critical unanimity "Illegal"?

  • 11.10.2010

Let’s open fire with Fabienne Bradfer who writes in Le Soir The film that opened the Namur FiFF was very emotional: “Illégal is a punch in the face. All the more so because it describes a situation a few miles from our lives, but it does so on the basis of a real field investigation, giving priority to the human journey rather than the political charge. The empathy with the character of Tania is immediate. Because this young Russian woman with no history can be us in another world. We live with her the fear, the humiliation, the unanswered questions, the mistrust, the waiting, the uncertainties and the powerlessness imposed by the confinement. We are in the concrete of a dramatic human reality.”

The same is true on the site of the RTBF But another merit of the film is that it avoids Manicheism: we don’t see a tug of war between bad prison guards and a good immigrant; the filmmaker denounces a system and human beings who are victims of a system, rather than individuals in particular. In this sense, “Illegal” is certainly a committed film, but not blindly militant: no character is there to convey a summary or caricatural message… “

Fernand Denis also joins this chorus of praise? This fine observer of the film industry for more than 30 years now, a prominent critic of La Libre, cannot hide his enthusiasm. To read him It is not surprising that Anne Coesens has just won a Bayard d’Or in Namur for the excellence of her performance.

“Very concrete, realistic, “Illegal” seems to be the opposite of the first film of the young filmmaker: “Cages” which presented, in a baroque, almost fantastic way, a woman in love imprisoned in her silence. In terms of style, “Cages” and “Illegal” do not have much in common. But in substance, they share the same theme of personal and cerebral “imprisonment” on the one hand, and, on the other, universal and visceral. They also share the formidable Anne Coesens. Locked in silence in “Cages”, she is, this time, imprisoned in a Tower of Babel, two situations that she faces with the same rage to find a way out as unlikely as a balanced governmental agreement. Each time, she takes the audience along, so much so that she throws herself into the role without restraint, but also without hysteria. There is in this actress both all the violence of a total commitment and the restraint of a sincere, modest interpretation, far from the performance.”

We could go on for a long time with this overview, but we would end up repeating ourselves, because the qualities highlighted are often identical and the warm tone is quite similar from one media to another. Let us nevertheless pin to close, the review of Sarah Pialeprat in Cinergie which goes a little further in the cinematographic analysis. The format and the audience of the media encourage this approach.

“By choosing to lock himself up between the four walls of a prison (almost the only place in the film), by filming as closely as possible, by remaining attentive to the smallest details, the filmmaker succeeds in capturing the slightest breath, the slightest emotion. But this deliberately stifled and suffocating staging is counterbalanced by a dynamic that, at every moment, takes us and surprises us with its beautiful escapes. And even if despair is tactile, if unjustified violence grips us, there emanates from Illégal a gentleness and a drive for life that the camera manages to translate through the closeness and intimacy that binds the filmmaker to the moving characters.”

And Sarah ends nicely (which will save us from doing it ourselves): “If Illégal is a political film, it is not for all that a film with a thesis that would like to impose a pragmatic discourse. If Illégal is deeply political, it is because it questions identity and what it means to be human. It is through the power of cinema that it finds the truth of its necessary relationship to politics. “