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WHITE MATERIAL

25/05/2011

FRANCE |

Claire Denis has always been a poet of mood and moment, and here succeeds in linking these skills to the creation of a story with oppressive tension and atmosphere. White Material could be her best film since Beau Travail: a disturbing piece of work whose power and grip increase, almost imperceptibly, as the film progresses.

Isabelle Huppert plays Maria Vial, a coffee farmer in an unnamed African state – Francophone, and presumably a former French colony – which is in meltdown. There is lawlessness on the streets and, as in Rwanda, radio DJs pour out inflammatory broadcasts. The colonial whites are being blamed.

Every day is more dangerous for Maria, but she stubbornly refuses to leave, perhaps because she cannot imagine a life back in France, perhaps because decades of facing down quasi-insurrectionary threats from the indigenous workforce have left her unable to distinguish this grave crisis from all the other temporary mutinies.

White Material is constructed out of flashbacks and ambient fragments that heighten rather than resolve ambiguity. This is a powerful film.

Check it out after the jump…

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