Chez Nous (This Is Our Land)London Film Festival 2017
10th October 2017 6.15pm at Ciné Lumière
11th October 2017 12.00pm at Vue West End
These are troubling times. Donald Trump is president, Britain is leaving Europe, and right-wing groups around the world are gaining popularity. In the French political thriller by Lucas Belvaux, these unsettling issues take centre stage. Pauline (Émilie Dequenne), a nurse in a northern French town, is approached by the RNP – a right-wing party, mirroring the real-life National Front. They want her to run for mayor, joining with their presidential candidate Agnès Dorgelle (Catherine Jacob). After initially dismissing the idea, Pauline starts to seriously consider the job.
Lucas Belvaux clearly has his left-wing intentions, but, whatever the viewer’s political leanings, they bear witness to stomach-churning activities by far-right advocates. This Is Our Land forces the audience to spend their time with these detestable people and the horrific views they hold. But Pauline isn’t a monster and, as a result, we are educated about the reasons why unlikely people enter into far-right politics, especially those who don’t know much about it.
But Pauline’s motivations to join the RNP campaign aren’t made entirely clear in the film. She turns from being nonplussed about politics to being passionate and eager to participate, but we are never let into the reasons why. And despite the movie’s eloquence in addressing unethical practises within far-right parties, reaching Orwellian proportions, there isn’t an attempt to understand these politicians as people. The antagonists appear onscreen like satirical cartoons, without much background to their characters. Considering the complexity of Pauline’s character, these far-right drawings feel simplistic.
Most of the movie centres on Pauline, and Dequenne provides a rigorous and conflicted performance. She makes the audience enjoy her character, despite her decisions. The actor conveys a wonderfully subtle ambivalence towards what her character is doing.
This Is Our Land is a critical tale of our current political climate, but it can’t decide between satire and social drama. Many scenes are upsetting, particularly in the aggressive attitudes toward the refugee crisis. The audience may leave the cinema pointing out the story’s imperfections, but the message is pressed into their hearts and minds. It’s a scary world we live in.
Chez Nous (This Is Our Land) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Chez Nous (This Is Our Land) here: