Wednesday, December 01, 2004

SEE: La Promesse (1996)

Next destination: France

La Promesse takes place in a dismal industrial town in the north of France. It involves three characters, Roger, his son, Igor, and Assita, an African woman.

Roger and Igor rent apartments to illegal immigrants. One day, one of the immigrants falls down a scaffold. Before he dies, he makes Igor promise him that he will take care of his wife, Assita, and their infant. The rest of the film shows to what extent Igor fulfills his promise.

I first heard of this movie in the late 90's. I always wanted to see it. When I finally viewed it I was surprised by how grim it was. Roger is a truly hateful character who only cares about making a buck (or rather a franc) at the expense and suffering of others. It's disconcerting that his young teenage son, Igor, is involved in this illegal business with him. But there is a glimmer of hope for Igor. He has the potential not to turn out like his old man. There are a couple touching scenes between Igor and Assita, the woman he helps. They develop a very interesting relationship where at the same time they are opposed to one another yet they desperately need each other - each one for individual reasons. Also, their relationship demonstrates the clash between the Igor's western world and Assita's African world. She is very spiritual and consults a witch doctor. Igor goes by his rational, Greek way of thinking and doesn't understand Assita's spirituality.

The interesting feature of this film is that it has no soundtrack which contributes to the grim reality of the story. Watching a movie with no background music is quite an experience. It adds intensity to an already intense drama.

If you like drama, this film is for you. Otherwise, stick with your bubble gum pop movies.

::4 stars::