Albert Serra’s weird epic is a cheese-dream of French imperial tristesse, political paranoia and an apocalyptic despair. It’s a nightmare that strikes as slowly and confidently as a somnambulist, and its tempo, size, and Serra’s lovely widescreen panoramic framings – by which standard drama is nearly camouflaged or misplaced – might divide opinion. I can solely say I used to be captivated by the movie and its stealthy evocation of pure evil.
Admirers of Serra’s earlier motion pictures The Death of Louis XIV and Liberté will know what an uncompromisingly unique and startling film-maker he’s. That distinctiveness is definitely on show with this new spectacle, however with intriguing new hints of David Lynch and Nicolas Winding Refn. (Refn famously directed Agatha Christie’s Marple on British TV; maybe Albert Serra will end up to have completed some uncredited work on Demise In Paradise.) The setting is Tahiti, a part of French Polynesia and thus a part of the French republic; its lush coasts and landscapes come to mind with breathtaking aptitude, but with one thing reducing of their magnificence, one thing sinister imposed upon them from above or a haze they’ve needed to generate from under.
Benoît Magimel (who appears to be morphing into Gérard Depardieu earlier than our very eyes) is M de Curler, the French excessive commissioner who strolls round with raffish entitlement in his rumpled white go well with, a breezy sleazy fellow who enjoys patronising all ranks of the Tahiti inhabitants. He hangs out on the native membership owned by Morton, one other white expatriate, performed by the reliably unsettling Sergi López, and De Curler grinningly ogles the just about bare bar employees and glad-hands all the opposite seedy officers there. He additionally loves hanging out with the semi-clad indigenous dancers who carry out conventional dances for the vacationers and, like a poundshop Paul Gauguin, fancies himself a connoisseur of their traditions. He has additionally fallen in love with the dancers’ choreographer Shannah (Pahoa Mahagafanau).
However De Curler’s temper has grow to be extra cynical and dyspeptic as his time period of workplace reaches its finish, and he’s disconcerted by new developments on the island. There appear to be increasingly army personnel round, together with a sure admiral (Marc Susini), who, when drunk, tells individuals on the membership in regards to the significance of behaving ruthlessly with one’s “personal individuals” (which constitutionally consists of Tahitians) to scare potential enemies. De Curler chairs an excruciatingly troublesome assembly with indigenous representatives who demand to know if there’s any reality within the hearsay that the French authorities is getting ready to renew nuclear testing on the island (which, notoriously, came about in secret from the 60s to the 90s.) De Curler, in a cheerfully evasive fashion, which jogged my memory of a sure British politician, tells them what they need to hear, and finishes with what he imagines to be a captivating little bit of patriotic whimsy: promising that they might be welcome on the new on line casino being constructed, the place Bastille Day could be duly celebrated yearly.
However in his coronary heart, De Curler is aware of that this private Eden of his is about to grow to be poisoned, and maybe that poison of political dangerous religion has all the time been there. A Portuguese diplomat (Alexandre Melo) arrives on the island, making a fuss about his misplaced passport, after which quickly loses consciousness, maybe drugged; was he secretly investigating the French nuclear mission? Both method, Shannah takes it on herself to nurse him, a horrible blow to De Curler’s amour propre. And, are the committee of anti-nuclear protesters, De Curler wonders, being sponsored by France’s nuclear rivals: the Russians, the People, the Chinese language?
Because the neurosis and horror roll in like invisible fog, De Curler takes a closing tour of his beloved, but additionally hated, colonial possession. There are beautifully composed scenes: notably photographs of the massive crafts that take events of surfers out to the place the rolling breakers are available removed from shore and these massive lumbering boats tackle staggeringly excessive waves: a very surreal spectacle. The ultimate scenes present De Curler getting ready to go away the inferno in a balletically silent and unearthly sequence. However will he truly go away?
Maybe Pacifiction is flawed, however its waywardness is a part of Serra’s authorship: it’s an genuine descent into darkness.