This year, the Mons International Film Festival honored Laurent Cantet, Palme d’or in 2008 for Between the wallsdevoting a retrospective to him and showing his new film Arthur Rambowhich will only be released in May in Belgium.
This film recounts the meteoric rise and the brutal fall of Karim D., a young writer from the suburbs, caught up in hateful tweets written under a pseudonym as he reached media and popular recognition. If it is a fiction, Laurent Cantet was greatly inspired by the Mehdi Meklat affair which upset the French media Landerneau in 2017.
“I wanted to dwell on the social networks which occupy a lot of space in all aspects of our lives”explains the director, invited by the festival. “Then came the Mehdi Meklat affair, which I knew through his radio columns where, at 17, he discussed life in the suburbs as much as a book he had liked. He had a kind of intelligence who impressed me and I was often in tune with him. One morning, I discovered in the press the tweets that emerged during the night and I got dizzy.”
“I couldn’t understand how this intelligence and this rudeness could cohabit in the same man. And these questions made me want to ask them in a film, knowing that I will not come to definitive conclusions. was going to be facing a real conundrum and it was worth guessing about.”
A powerful film that questions
Rabah Naït Oufella, who plays Karim D. in Laurent Cantet’s film, appears all in shades of gray and arouses ambivalent feelings. “What interested me was to create a rocking movement between what we can feel for him, because crushed by a machine stronger than him, and a rejection vis-à-vis what he has written. Because it is not a monster, but not a victim either.”
In its form, Arthur Rambo is a short, direct and dynamic film. Like a tweet. “I tried to be in connection with the subject itself, to be more direct, while trying not to simplify the thought, because it is the biggest complaint that I can make with social networks. You cannot not to clearly express the complexity of a question in 140 characters when you have to be the funniest, hard-hitting, provocative. This formats the thinking of our time and I hope that the film opposes this with a complexity, certainly less comfortable, but more rich.”
Laurent Cantet also expresses several contemporary phenomena: the rapidity with which the media and social networks erect idols to burn them even faster, the misunderstanding when the virtual becomes real, the escalation of provocation on social networks, the misunderstanding they arouse, the gap between audiences and, ultimately, the loneliness to which they expose our hero, lost in a maelstrom of thoughts. “Despite his feeling of hypercommunication, he is very alone. And when the story breaks out, he is sent back to his loneliness. Because he will have to solve his problems by himself and with his own weapons.”
In Arthur RamboLaurent Cantet does not want to provide an answer, but to question our uses, our behavior. “What I hope that we experience is also the feeling of awareness in Karim D. I give leads, but without deciding on a truth that probably does not exist, the hero being no doubt an enigma in his own eyes. And that’s what interests me in a character, which makes him so rich.”
Meetings with the public: “It helps me to take stock”
Following the screening of Between the Walls this Wednesday evening at the Plaza, Laurent Cantet has an appointment with the public of Mons for a Master Class, an exercise “always a bit strange. But at the same time, it helps me to take stock, to assess the links between my different films, the coherence of what I’ve been trying to tell for 25 years…Even if it seems a bit dizzying when I see 25 years of my life summarized on screens in two days, it can be a little disturbing.
What does he retain from 25 years of cinema? “What interests me is seeing how the intimacy of the characters I film is shaped by the world around them. I have the impression that we are made by the context in which we evolves and this link between the intimate and the social has always interested me.”
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At the FIFM, drowning in the twittosphere with “Arthur Rambo”