Monday, May 29, 2023

2023 Cannes Marathon: Atlantics


(Winner of the Grand Prix Prize at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival)
Directed by Mati Diop and screenplay by Diop and Olivier Demangel, Atlantique (Atlantics) is the story of a young woman living near Dakar as she is to be engaged to a rich man via an arrangement until she gets the unexpected return from her lover who had been missing since a migration attempt. The film is an exploration of a woman dealing with all sorts of situations including death and the refugee crisis of the 2010s. Starring Mame Bineta Sane, Ibrahima Traore, Amadou Mbow, Nicole Sougou, Aminata Kane, Mariama Gassama, Coumba Dieng, Ibrahima Mbaye, and Diankou Sembene. Atlantique is an evocative and rapturous film from Mati Diop.

The film revolves around a young woman living in a suburb near Dakar as she’s about to be married to a rich man via an arrangement where some mysterious events occur involving her lover who had supposedly return following migration attempt that left everyone dead. It is a film that plays into this young woman dealing with loss but also uncertainty and these mysterious events that played into the loss of her lover as well as others who chose to leave after being stiffed over being unpaid for three months wages in building a tower. The film’s screenplay by Mati Diop and Olivier Demangel is largely straightforward as it opens with young men working construction as they go to the foreman demanding their wages with one of them in Souleiman (Ibrahima Traore) who is upset as he meets up with his girlfriend Ada (Mame Bineta Sane) as he hopes to give her a good life despite the fact that she is to marry Omar (Babacar Sylla) through an arranged marriage with Omar already a rich man.

Due to the fact that he got stiffed over his payments, Souleiman and other laborers go on a boat in an attempt to find work in Spain where things go wrong with Ada forced to accept her fate in marrying Omar with many of her friends including the bar owner Dior (Nicole Sougou) looking on until a mysterious incident at Omar’s home occurred. It leads to mysterious events with a police inspector in Issa (Amadou Mbow) doing the investigation until he endures something relating to an illness where he has no clue what happened to him. Even as a tycoon in Mr. Ndiaye (Diankou Sembene) would be a victim of these mysterious actions where the police becomes baffled. It all plays into not just loss but also this growing sense of modernism that creates a social inequality that would force Souleiman and others to flee Dakar for a better world only to be swept away the sea.

Diop’s direction is entrancing for not just the way she shoots this area near Dakar but also this world that is starting to catch up with the rest of the world in creating a 21st Century society despite the social inequality many of the characters deal with. Shot on these locations with this massive futuristic tower that is often seen in the background as this symbol of a new Africa. Diop’s usage of wide and medium shots play into the locations but also gazing shots of the ocean as there’s often shots of the Atlantic Ocean and the sea as it play into this sense of the unknown. Notably as characters would gaze at it while they live in homes on dirt roads while Omar and Mr. Ndiaye live in posh homes with paved driveways around their homes. Diop does maintain some intimacy into the direction that include some close-ups and medium shots including the wedding ceremony scene where Ada marries Omar as they go into the home with a room which is their wedding bed that is lavish.

Diop also maintains this sense of intrigue as it relates to these key incidents that include shots where women mysterious walk towards the beach as if they’re in a trance while other mysterious things occur. It all plays into the specter of death where Ada is constantly questioned by Issa who finds himself sweating and gasping for breath during sunset as there’s shots of the sun setting down towards the ocean. Even as Ada, Dior, and eventually Issa would discover what is happening as it plays into not just loss but also resentment towards those that forced them to migrate to another country. Then there’s Souleiman and his presence as it adds a lot of intrigue into what happened to him but also why he has appeared. Overall, Diop crafts a haunting yet intoxicating film about a young woman dealing with the presence of her former lover following a series of mysterious events.

Cinematographer Claire Mathon does incredible work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on a sort of dusty yet naturalistic look for some of the daytime scenes with a lot of natural lighting for some of the scenes in the evening in its exteriors along with some stylish lighting for the interior/exterior scenes at night as it is a highlight of the film. Editor Ael Dallier Vega does excellent work with the editing with its straightforward approach to jump-cuts and rhythmic cuts to play into the drama and suspense. Production designers Toma Baqueni and Oumar Sall do brilliant work with the look of the bar that Dior runs with its neon laser backdrop as well as the look of the posh homes that Omar and Mr. Ndiaye live in. Costume designers Salimata Ndiaye and Rachel Raoult do amazing work with the costumes from some of the lavish dresses and gowns during the wedding ceremony to the casual look that everyone wears on a normal day.

Visual effects supervisor Nicolas Corson does fantastic work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects with the big futuristic building in the background being this symbol of a new Africa that many of the characters don’t feel a part of. Sound editor Benoit de Clerck does superb work with the film’s sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as how music is presented and other sparse moments that add to the film’s naturalistic yet haunting tone. The film’s music by Fatima Al Qadiri is phenomenal with its ravishing mixture of ambient, electronic music, African rhythms, and other kinds of music to create a score that is entrancing in some parts but also haunting to play into the sense of intrigue while music supervisors Steve Bouyer and Pascal Mayer cultivate a soundtrack that features elements of hip-hop and dance from the continent of Africa.

The film’s wonderful ensemble cast features largely non-actors and non-professionals with standout performances from Abdou Balde as the police captain, Ibrahima Mbaye as a friend of Souleiman in Moustapha, Coumba Dieng as one of Ada’s friends in Therese who sports blond dreadlocks, Mariama Gassama as Mariama who claims to have seen Souleiman during the wedding party, Aminata Kane as another friend of Ada in Fanta who deals with a mysterious illness like many other women following the events at the wedding, Babacar Sylla as Ada’s rich husband Omar who is baffled by her behavior and her refusal to live with him, and Diankou Sembene as Mr. Ndiaye as a rich tycoon who refuses to pay many of the laborers for three months where he is confronted by mysterious forces.

Nicole Sougou is fantastic as Ada’s best friend Dior as a young who runs a beachside bar where many of their friends hang out at as she would make a discovery late in the film as it relates to these mysterious events. Ibrahima Traore is excellent as Souleiman as Ada’s lover who is upset over not being paid for three months as he wants to create a good life for Ada forcing him to make a migration towards Spain where he returns through mysterious circumstances. Amadou Mbow is brilliant as the police inspector Issa as a man who is tasked with investigating the mysterious incidents where he would interrogate Ada believing she knows something until he makes a discovery of his own into the reasons why he gets sick during the evening. Finally, there’s Mame Bineta Sana in an incredible performance as Ada as a young woman who is engaged to be married to another man via an arrangement as she deals with not just a tragic event but also strange things happening around her as it relates to Souleiman as it is this radiant and touching performance from Sana.

Atlantique is an outstanding film from Mati Diop. Featuring a great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, an entrancing and chilling story, and an intoxicating music score by Fatima Al Qadiri. It is a film that isn’t just this riveting drama set in a world that is trying to catch up with the rest of the world but also an exploration of a young woman dealing with loss and events that play into her own identity and desires. In the end, Atlantique is a magnificent film from Mati Diop.

© thevoid99 2023


ruth said...

Oooh I'm glad you finally saw this! It's one of my absolutely favorite films of 2019! Can't wait to see more from Mati Diop.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-It's currently in my top 10 films of 2019 right now. There is a short by Diop that is available on YouTube that I plan on watching this month as part of a series of shorts from Miu Miu.