Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original Title: Atlantique
France/Senegal/Belgium, 2019. Cinekap, Frakas Productions, Les Films du Bal. Screenplay by Mati Diop, Olivier Demangel. Cinematography by Claire Mathon. Produced by Judith Lou Lévy, Eve Robin. Music by Fatima Al Qadiri. Production Design by Laura Bücher. Costume Design by Salimata Ndiaye, Rachel Raoult. Film Editing by Aël Dallier Vega. Cannes Film Festival 2019. European Film Awards 2019. Toronto International Film Festival 2019.
Ada is engaged to be married to Omar, a successful businessman that her strict parents highly approve of, having no idea that she is secretly in love with construction worker Souleiman and having a clandestine (though chaste) love affair with him. The building project that Souleiman has been employed at hasn’t been paying its workers and he joins his fellow labourers when they leave Dakar, going to sea and hoping to make it to Spain. Ada is disheartened by Souleiman’s departure but then even more disturbed when she hears that he is back in town, with signs of trouble arising when Omar’s bedroom is set on fire during their engagement party. Is he really back or is something more troubling afoot? A police officer assigned to the case finds himself waking up feeling ill every morning after not remembering what happened the night before, while the greedy owner of the construction project is visited in the middle of the night by a group of blank-eyed women telling him that he owes them money for their work. Mati Diop’s hypnotic, sexy and smart romantic fable weaves elements of modern-day headlines (particularly the migrant crisis) with age-old magic realism to great effect, this is a beautifully photographed, exceptionally acted and confidently directed movie that casts a spell and never breaks it. Diop emphasizes lengthy wordless takes with moody music and haunting photography, reminiscent of her 35 Shots of Rum director Claire Denis but with her own capricious (but never silly) narrative movements.