Apaches: A darker side of Corsica
by Raffaele Pavoni
- Corsican director Thierry de Peretti’s first film was shown out of competition at the Mediterranean Film Festival of Brussels
After being well received by audiences and critics alike during the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, Apaches [+see also:
film profile], the surprising debut from Corsican director Thierry de Peretti, hit screens at the Mediterranean Film Festival of Brussels.
Inspired by an incident that was reported in the media, the story features a group of working-class teenagers who decide to host a party in a decadent mansion in the Corsican mountains, where the father of one of them works as a caretaker. Events go downhill from there, and by the end of the night a number of CDs, a sound system and some valuable hunting weapons have disappeared. Their fear of being found out sets off a chain reaction that will end in unmitigated tragedy.
It’s a dazzling debut that adopts a rough-and-ready documentary style, stripped of all sentimentality and consisting mainly of medium and wide shots all filmed in 4:3 aspect ratio. “To portray this tense situation, we needed it to look like a documentary,” explained screenwriter Benjamin Baroche, introducing the film. “We were influenced by the Dardenne brothers, obviously, but also by Algerian filmmaker Tariq Teguia.”
The contrast between the luxurious lives of the local elite, referred to indistinguishably in the film as “the French”, and the downtrodden existence of the protagonists’ families, forms the axis around which the narrative is constructed. Without offering any justifications or excuses, refusing to patronise or psychologise, de Peretti establishes a dialectic of events that grants us access to a forgotten Corsica, unacknowledged and trapped in its own dramatic isolation. “There is a total of two scenes in which you can see the sea — that’s it.” Baroche went on to explain that “we wanted to create a contrast to the picture postcard images that people often have of Corsica — perfect beaches, spectacular mountains, etc. These exist, of course, but we were more interested in the people who might be called the underclass, and who are becoming more and more numerous. There’s a real lack of audio-visual material that focuses on this population.”
Within this juxtaposition, de Peretti introduces some important reflections on the hatred, expressed more or less openly depending on the circumstances, between two classes portrayed alternately as arrogant and plagued with a social jealousy that leads to crime and violence. It all comes across as distinctly personal — a kind of jungle in which “we” are defined by our relationship with “them”. Even the audience cannot escape this dynamic, as we discover in the brutal final scene.
The script takes on an overwrought tone that highlights the lack of communication between the different sides and creates a palpable sense of tension that gets under our skin, never expressed, never discharged. It’s a tension that is amplified by the film’s uncompromising realism, deriving not only from the style in which it was shot but also from the use of non-professional actors. “At first, I had my doubts about hiring people who were not professional performers,” Baroche confessed, “and I expressed those doubts to Thierry, who, on the other hand, seemed certain that it was the right thing to do, and so I let it drop. In the end, I had to admit that he was right.” Proud of his Corsican roots, de Peretti selected his actors through an open casting call, a protracted process that took a whole year, not only to cast the roles but to train the performers and make sure they fully understood their characters. The team worked in a communal way much more common in the world of theatre than in film. “The crucial thing,” the director explained, “was to spend a whole year with these people, letting the story mould itself to them and vice versa. My background is in theatre, and I was more focused on creating a little troupe that would be able to take each day as it came, rather than on the performances themselves.”
(Translated from Italian)
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