Sunday, 20 March 2011

Isabelle necessary? ...very!

The greatest French actress of her generation (not just the best called Adjani fans!), Isabelle Huppert turns in a performance of rare depth and dexterity in Claire Denis's "White Material".

White Material is set on a coffee plantation in a former French colony in central Africa, in the grip of civil conflict and corruption. Isabelle plays Maria, the manager of the plantation determined to hold on to her way of life and to resist the urge to flee back to France and safety.

The sheer peril of the situation with murderous gangs of armed children faced against the controlling militia contrasts with the signature internal intensity of Huppert's performance. She pulls the viewer into her story whilst all around are losing their heads amidst the gathering horror.

How would you respond in such conditions? It seems oddly unbalanced that we focus on one well-off business woman whilst cheap lives are lost but that is the point and, ultimately, we feel compromised in our desire to extend sympathy to Maria. She underestimates the scale of the changes around her and, in the end, falls shockingly short in her attempts to bridge the gap between her own rights and those of her workers, colleagues and family.

It's white here.

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