24 November 2015 | costaspap
"Dheepan": Cinematic beauty without political didacticism
In our review for Robert Guédiguian's wonderful film "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1852006/reviews-6) we raised the question whether Art should be an imitation of life or whether it should be the other way around. The advocates of realism will make the first choice since, in their opinion, life is full of ugliness that Art must faithfully portray. As is often the case, the artist does not even distinguish between realism and pessimism. In the case of cinema, in particular, the audience must leave the theater full of dark thoughts and feelings of vanity; happy ending is a taboo and a positive message should be hard to find. Idealism, on the other hand, reserves a more noble and ambitious role for Art by creating high standards of human character, thus offering psychological, ideological and aesthetic motivation for man to overcome the inherent weaknesses of his nature and morally elevate himself by striving to reach these standards.
Guédiguian's film masterfully balances between these two opposite philosophical trends. One could hardly say anything less about Jacques Audiard's "Dheepan" (Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival). In the first place, the subject – immigration to Europe from war-torn places of the Third World – is so timely that the film almost acquires the character of a documentary. The audience, however, progressively witnesses a marvelous transformation from the harsh reality of human survival to the final triumph of human moral exaltation!
Here is the beginning of the story:
"Dheepan" is a freedom fighter of the "Tamil Tigers" in the Sri Lankan Civil War. The war approaches its end and defeat of the revolutionaries is imminent. Dheepan, whose entire family was lost in the war, decides to flee the country together with a woman and a little girl – two persons previously unknown to him as well as to each other – in the hope that, by pretending that they are a family, it would be easier for them to claim asylum somewhere in Europe. Arriving in Paris, the "family" seeks temporary housing while Dheepan tries to earn some money by selling little things under the nose of the Police. Finally, he finds a permanent job as a caretaker in a building block somewhere in the suburbs. Although the place is miserable and, moreover, is a den of unlawful activities, Dheepan works hard to build a new life for him and his new family...
The craftsmanship of the narrative lies in the wonderful balance between the hard realism of the subject and the cinematic poetry that permeates the film from beginning to end. This narrative carefully and skillfully avoids the traps of over-sentimentalism and political didacticism, as well as the temptation of sanctification or demonization of the various characters, as such oversimplifications would undoubtedly undermine the artistic result. The main heroes, in particular, are not a priori "good". They discover the good parts of their own nature as the story progresses, thus developing as human beings in the process.
It is precisely this miracle of character revelation and moral elevation in front of the viewer's eyes that makes cinema such a wonderful art, after all. And, even if it seems too idealistic to be true, this miracle is far from representing a utopia!