Audiard (France; 2015) Antonythasan Jesuthasan, Kalieawari
Srinivasan, Claudine Vinasithamby.
viewed Tyneside Cinema Newcastle 12 April 2016; ticket: £9.75
Get real, Dheepan ain’t deep.
Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan trails itself as a movie about migrants, asylum seekers. My viewing left me seeing that it was no such thing: it is a sort ‘Dirty Harry’ lets clean up the hood variant movie, which exploits some of its content to flaunt politically correct credentials.
A fraudulent dishonest piece of film making as befits a euro-pudding of a film that puts the money men and producers up front. Where they belong – in this case.
Audiard in 2009 made a Prophet, popular successful art house work. A Prophet (sic) was a bulked out prison/gangster vehicle, but which had an underlying theme: the emergence from out of the shadows of a European Islam, as a potential moral force to rival Western desire-ism and consumerism. It is interesting that Audiard in this film decided not to deepen his analysis of the relations in Europe (France) between Moslems and Europeans, to probe a Moslem experience in the context of a housing project run by white gangs. Instead Audiard opts for the simplistic device of a Tamil group (posing as a family) having to integrate somehow with the alien forces amongst which they find themselves directed to live.
But as Audiard develops his scenario, it becomes clear his main character Dheepan, isn’t really an asylum seeker, he’s a rookie cop. Audiard has more interest in gun fetish than cultural issues.
Because as Audiard develops his material it is clear that his movie only enters into token relations in relation to his asylum seekers. Tamil culture with its Hindu religious framework, is filmed as an anaemic force, not subject to any interpolation from habitants of their city project environment and unable in themselves to judge the despairing nature of the situation into which they have been caste. Their Tamil background makes them the more invisible than had they been Moslem and carried the features of a more distinctive culture. Going Tamil, Audiard is able to avoid any of the deeper difficult problematic questions relating to immigration, acceptance, xenophobia and just get on with his ‘clean up the hood’ script.
Bulking out the scripting that leads up to the final shoot-out are a series of sequences remarkable only for their shallow quality. The most ridiculous of these are the artsie close up shots of the head of an elephant that are periodically spliced into the film. These elephant shots presumably are supposed to be cultural and social markers, a kind of symbolic psychic counterweight to Dheepan’s process of assimilation into Western culture. Equally feeble is the Hindu Temple sequence which looks like an advert for an up market Indian restaurant. The worst sections are those dealing with the education of Illayaal. The script reduces Illayaal to a kind of mechanised pawn, as in a series of cameo sequences she becomes an exemplar of a refugee child’s school career. The token formula of the script development is: Illayaal kicks off against school, she is bullied, she overcomes, and finally she’s top of the form. Bravo! An immigrant success story shoe-horned neatly into the film.
But the ‘fugee’ school achievement experience as a superficiality, is repeated throughout the film. Shallowness and lack of awareness define all the relations depicted in Dheepan whether they are those within the family which is not a family, or those relations of Dheepan and Yalini as they work and meld with the native community.
The ending, the final sequences of the film are emblematic of the wretched script. Whether this end sequence was driven by the money (follow the money) or not, I don’t know. But suddenly, after the fire fight on the landings of the project, we are in England. Was this shift to the UK a condition of the British money? Anyway strangely, we see Dheepan driving a London cab ( not an Uber cab which would have been more plausible as you don’t have to get the ‘Knowledge ‘ to be an Uber driver). Now we are in leafy suburbs. And, everything is OK. Everyone is smiling happy and very content with the world. In fact as in Candide, we and they the Tamil migrants, are in the best of all possible worlds. Not beside the sea of Marmara, but in a garden in Surrey. What a wonderful happy ending. Adrin Neatrour firstname.lastname@example.org