A large group of men huddle outdoors as their union representative, Michel (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) calls out names drawn from a box. He pulls his own name, thus joining the ranks of those laid off from working at the docks. His brother-in-law Raoul (Gérard Meylan) asks if Michel is "crazy" for including himself in the drawing, while Michel's wife, Marie-Claire (Ariane Ascaride) comments that it's hard sometimes to live with a "hero." These differing reactions describe the central tension of Robert Guédiguian's The Snows of Kilimanjaro, a meditation on how our values hold up when tested.
Essentially, it is Michel and Marie-Claire's faith in their own social status that is at stake in the film. Shortly after entering into early retirement, the couple is robbed at gunpoint by Christophe (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet), one of the workers whose name Michel had pulled during the layoffs. When Christophe is apprehended by the police, Michel confronts the younger man about what he has done. Instead of showing remorse, Christophe shocks Michel by challenging the comforts he will enjoy as a middle class pensioner, contrasting the safety net afforded Michel with the complete lack of security the other laid off men have available to them.
Though the scene between Christophe and Michel is brief, the debate rages on throughout the film as Michel and Marie-Claire are treated to a variety of opinions on the matter from friends, family and the police. For their part, they seem more interested in direct action, coming to the aid of Christophe's young brothers, pausing only once to discuss the strain between the socialist views they've held and the class position they occupy.
It's a film anchored by the performances, especially the work of Darroussin, whose quiet expressiveness modulates masterfully between growing humiliation and graceful acceptance. Even when the plot veers towards becoming an apologist piece, his solid presence offers the viewer something to embrace.
The Snows of Kilimanjaro will screen for the public at Cinemagic on Feb. 11th at 6pm and at the Lloyd Mall 6 on Feb. 13th at 8:45pm A final screening will occur on Feb. 16th at the Lake Twin Cinema at 8:30pm.
Remember to find and "like" us on our Facebook page.
Subscribe to the blog's feed here.