A Film review

Notre Jour Viendra - Romain Gavras (2011)

For his first attempt at film, French video clip maker Romain Gavras creates with Notre Jour Viendra a hallucinatory story revisiting stereotypical representations from the TV culture. One of his previous works consists in a high energetic advertisement for Adidas where he multiplies references to American mass culture in sports and entertainment. He also directed the mesmerizing 63 million views video clip for M.I.A. Bad girls in which he toys with American codes displaced in an overly kitsch imitation of the Middle East. At the end of this clip we can see among the extras a young boy with red hair, one of Gavras’ predilections. With his French production Notre Jour Viendra, he tells the journey of an insignificant red-haired boy from an anonymous suburban area in France.

He opens the film with a car tuning competition (a customization practice inherited from American hot rods culture which describes namely as “mass personalization”) that the hero is taking part in. On his way back the boy suddenly binds with an unknown character that seems to exert an unreasoned power on his surroundings and which he drives from an unknown source. Although they never speak it out, they are first driven by a longing to escape together from their condition and to reach out for anything better. Their first steps are erratic but little by little they specify the object of their quest: their journey will lead them to Ireland where they will both find salvation in what they believe to be the ginger’s land of milk and honey. The encounters they make on their path are either turned into hostile confrontation or in epic halts. At first committing petty crimes they eventually resort to killing their alleged assailants so as to achieve their odyssey. Both wounded, they embark in the end onto a balloon basket which, we all know, will only lead them where the wind goes. This finale is a superb metaphor to end their journey with a last glorious attempt inevitably doomed to failure.

The characters’ longing has no object at the beginning. They don’t know what they want but they want it very bad. In the hope of any alternative fate, they have to invent a new faith for themselves. Self-reflecting on his body features the hero elects one physical particularity that provides him with the most reliable and unchallengeable sense of belonging: his ginger hair. He invents that his destiny is to rally Ireland. On that ground he devises a new class of sacral actions that he needs to take in order to achieve his destiny: to shave your head, to cause a fight, to have sex with hookers, to carry a weapon, or to burn a car… The worth of the actions is determined by their iconic value and aesthetics rather than their actual meaning or necessity. Falling into a state of trance and unaware of the vanity of their actions, their doomed journey becomes a sublime quest to bring meaning into their lives.

The relationship with reality is always unsure in the film. All events and images are at the verge of credibility. The story acts as a long sublime poem. The scene where he pees in the Jacuzzi while people are still bathing is constructed like a haiku: only at the end of it a small detail reveals the whole reach of the action. The story navigates ostentatiously from one iconic image to the next, which are mostly stemming from the clip genre from which originates Gavras. These TV clichés from the American culture act as new mythology for the younger generation worldwide. Adopting the form of antique story-telling Gavras mastered a hypnotizing depiction of the world and a seizing portrait of disillusioned youth struggling till death for re-enchantment.