Wednesday, October 20, 2010

LFF 2010: A Screaming Man

Craig here, continuing a look at films showing at the 54th BFI London Film Festival.

I much admired Chad filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's Daratt/Dry Season from 2007 (it took the #4 spot in my year-end list for that year), and he’s triumphed again with his fourth feature, A Screaming Man/Un homme qui crie. Made in the same refined and frank vein as Daratt, this new film follows Adam (Youssouf Djaoro), a pool cleaner and former swimming champion who works at an exclusive N'Djamena hotel with the assistance of his son, Abdel (Diouc Koma). After a job reshuffle Adam loses his job to Abdel; he sinks into depression fuelled by anger and humiliation, and so takes unexpected action. His situation worsens, just as civil war engulfs the country and rebel armies infiltrate the area.

Much of the film’s drama is underplayed. Haroun’s camera focuses on Adam in a curious, contemplative manner, observing with deftness the way his livelihood is slowly and slyly wrenched from him. Events major and minor are directed with crisp elegance, ensuring the plot never strays into falsity despite the tinge of melodrama inherent in it. One crucial shot, detailing a troubling decision Adam makes halfway in, tells us everything we need to know in a single, slow zoom into Adam’s face as he silently wallows in his demotion. Work is life for him; his job a necessity and cherished position, however lowly, which still holds for him the shine of his former swimming glories.

Djaoro (who also gave a fine performance in Daratt) conveys regret and selfishness with natural ease. That we care about him despite his permanently-furrowed demeanour and questionable ethics comes down to his strong turn. Music is used sparingly, and feels loaded with sombre emotion when it cuts in; it disrupts key moments unexpectedly to underline pertinent visual points. The photography (by Laurent Brunet) boldly highlights areas of respite within dim home interiors as much as it luxuriates in the expansive splendour of the hotel poolside. A Screaming Man details stunted, withheld lives – affected by social pressures and a fraught political climate – with a simple yet devastating awareness of the fragility of responsibility. B+

A Screaming Man is showing at the LFF on Wednesday 20th and Friday 22nd October.

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