Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Preview: White Material

Yesterday I went to Light House Cinema in Smithfield to see a preview of White Material, a film by the director of Chocolat, Claire Denis. I enjoyed it - but with some reservations.

Before discussing the film I should mention the venue. I like Light House; it's got a wonderfully spacious feel to it, almost as if it's an art gallery rather than a cinema. It is, to quote the website, a "commercially operated cultural cinema which presents a diverse and individual programme of the best Irish, independent, foreign-language, arthouse and classic cinema". And in my opinion, it does a good job of balancing its commercial aim and cultural aim.

So, the film: you might love it or hate it. It is very... French. It has a gentle, slow, disarmingly calm lack of pace to it; there is a plot, but it seems almost incidental. The setting, the characters, the insightful moments - these are the heart of the film. There is movement, even moments of change, but the film is not really a narrative.

The film is set in an unnamed African country. The Government fights inconclusively against rebels, ordinary people flee their homes or turn to banditry, and society seems to be falling apart. The protagonist is Maria Vial, a white Frenchwoman running a coffee plantation. The film is first and foremost a depiction of Vial's determination - or obsession - with keeping her plantation, regardless of the increasing turmoil and danger around her. (She's a bit annoying at times, to be honest!)

If you like that sort of film, go see this. You'll love it. If however you're looking for the thrills of Blood Diamond or the raw, vicious horror of Last King of Scotland you'll be disappointed.

The film opens in Light House on Friday 2nd July.