Why there will be talk of “Athena”, the Netflix film by Romain Gavras

This film by Romain Gavras, in the form of a cry of alarm about the spiral of violence, shows the insurrection of a city as an ancient tragedy and imagines France plunged into civil war.

A shocking new film about the suburbs: Romain Gavras delivers a devastating and highly political work on Netflix on Friday, athenawhich depicts a city’s insurrection as an ancient tragedy and imagines France descending into civil war.

This film, in the form of a cry of alarm about the spiral of violence, follows the fate of three men during a disastrous day who will fall, after the death of their younger brother, apparently the victim of a police blunder, in a crushing machine that swims seems to be able to stop.

In a city on the verge of explosion, while Abdel (Dali Benssalah), engrossed in the army, tries to calm the people and appeal to justice, while Major Moktar (Ouassini Embarek), a registered drug dealer, only seeks to protect your business. , the youngest, the impetuous Karim (Sami Slimane), calls the “little ones” to get up.

Caught up in the spiral of violence, which will lead to the kidnapping of a CRS, played by Anthony Bajon, the three race to their loss. Off screen, France descends into a civil war fueled by provocations from the extreme right.

Aesthetics a la “Apocalypse Now”

athena is online with Hatred by Mathieu Kassovitz and the miserable by Ladj Ly, who co-wrote and co-produced. “The idea is not to have bad guys and good guys, it’s more complex than that,” Romain Gavras told AFP. “There is an evil that is done at the beginning of the film and it is fate that comes to destroy everything.”

The film, shot in the Parisian suburbs of Evry, opts for an aesthetic between Gladiator Y apocalypse now and does not claim any realism. Certain sequences marked the first viewers who discovered the film at the end of August at the Venice festival: the attack on a police station, a city with the air of a medieval castle defended by hordes of armed youths…

Two years after the controversy arose north ferryaccused of playing into the hands of the extreme right by showing a reductionist and “police” vision of cities, athena takes a completely different look at suburbia, but one that promises to be just as divisive.

It’s not a thesis film

The son of the committed film pope Costa-Gavras delivers an explosive political charge. Even if the 41-year-old director, who caused controversy fifteen years ago with an ultraviolent clip for music group Justice, he denies having made a “thesis” film.

“I’m not sure that movies have the power to stop anger,” considers the filmmaker. “You never know if movies have an impact on people. For me, it was (seeing on screen) Marlon Brando who made me want to smoke… Later, when you’re full of anger, I don’t know if watching a movie will to stop it.”

A scene of the movie "athena"
A scene from the movie “Athena” © Netflix

“Instead, giving the vision, as the Greek tragedy did, of a black future, is interesting,” continues the director. “The acceleration towards the worst, we feel it all over the world, in France, in Greece, in the United States… We feed on everything when we make a film. When a country is fragile, it is very easy to push it to the limit and exploit a general mood”.

Borrowing from ancient mythology, Romain Gavras “wanted to show in a timeless way that the tensions we are experiencing now are the tensions we have experienced since ancient Greece or even prehistory… It is always the same, different interests leading to war, conflict. And on the ground, it’s the people who have intimate pain who will be on the front lines.”

These borrowings from Greek tragedy do not prevent Romain Gavras from multiplying himself in athena it nods to news images from recent years, including the 2018 arrest of high school students brought to their knees by police in Mantes-la-Jolie or police violence on the fringes of “yellow vest” demonstrations.

Caution

athena It thus sounds like a warning: while the city of Athena is on fire, it is all of France, fed by continuous news channels and giving in to the provocations of the extreme right, which is sinking into civil war.

A scene of the movie "athena"
A scene from the movie “Athena” © Netflix

Such a dystopia “allows you to explore a nightmare, what things could become, and tell it in a symbolic way,” stresses Romain Gavras, whose clip no church in naturefor Jay Z and Kanye West, he’s already staged an insurrection.

“The ambition of the film is to show that there are always shadow forces driving war. Today, the most powerful extreme that promotes the war is the ‘extreme right’”, said the director.

Athena risks losing its visual impact on the small screen: this Netflix product will not be released in theaters and is only available to subscribers. But her comments should provoke a lot of reactions in the coming weeks. Romain Gavras doesn’t care: “The reactions of the people don’t necessarily make a mass”, replies who believes that “it’s not the movies that add fuel to the fire”.

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