Sunday, October 05, 2008

La Question Humaine (Heartbeat Detector)

This Nicolas Klotz film is definitively a hard ride because the very unexpected twist the story takes (that’s it if you haven’t read the François Emmanuel story) and because as a film really starts like any movie set in a large company with many workers having “normal” working relations and you’ll never imagine what will happen next in that enviroment.

I really wish I could spoil the surprise relationship they establish in this movie, but I believe that not knowing anything about the story will help you to watch it without any preconceptions and the twist will surprise you more, as in many ways unfortunately what the story proposes makes total sense. Still, according to what I read many have been enraged by what the story relates to modern business practices in many industrial countries.

The story is set within the fictitious global conglomerate called SC Farb, a lightly oblique reference to the notorious German chemical company IG Farben whose dismantled and reacquired industries include well-know companies like AGFA, BASF, Bayer, Hoechst and many others. Tells about self-assured corporate psychologist and executive trainer Simon Kessler (Mathieu Almaric) who is asked to perform a concealed evaluation of the company CEO, Mathias Just (Michael Lonsdale) mental health following a series of erratic behaviors and questionable actions. What follows is Kessler’s own moral awakening and well, for some, ours too.

Labeled as a mystery and corporate intrigue film, what really does is to expose that in the name of efficiency, optimization, productivity and profitability many companies use these words –and their business practices- as euphemisms for inhumanity, exploitation and social genocide. But the film is full of symbols, as the one that Aquarello masterfully explains in his review and I totally agree and reproduce here, "where new generations (a sentiment acutely embodied in the incorporation of New Order music during a rave party attended by newly recruited employees) systematically collude to bury the transgressions of their forefathers in order to avoid confronting the past and consequently deflect their own personal accountability and sense of moral restitution."

As a film it is amazing as the director used cold tones, dark contrast palettes and cold institutional spaces with chilly and precise outstanding cinematography and some very carefully planned framing. Music and sound design go from Schubert to techno, by way of nerve-abrading industrial rumblings that absolutely become a crucial component of the evolving story. Performances are outstanding especially Mathieu Almaric that has a performance that absolutely competes head to head with his extraordinary performance in Le Scaphandre et le Papillon.

This is the third installment of what Klotz describes as the Trilogy of Modern Times; the other two are Paria and La Blessure, all dealing with questions about society’s conscience and its humanity. The film was screened in competition at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs at the 2007 Cannes and has awards and nominations in other awards and festivals around the world, including a nomination for Michael Lonsdale for Best Supporting Actor in the 2007 César Awards and Mathieu Almaric winning the Best Actor award at the Gijón International Film Festival.

Last I want to share an excerpt of a movie review from the Guardian as believe me it explains my experience with this movie: This juggles some heavy themes - the decay of language, the hidden hand of history, the power of music, and several more - and it takes its time to pull them together, regularly wrong-footing the viewer along the way.

When the movie was over I was speechless and needed a long time to get my voice back, that’s how hard this movie hit me especially because my own experiences in the business world. So, if you ever worked or work in any type of large corporations this film is a must be seen for you.

Perhaps this movie is one French movie that could be suited for more general adult audiences, but I know that the pace and the way the story develops makes it not easy to watch for many. So, perhaps is most suited for those that enjoy at least complex and cerebral European cinema.


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