White Material (2009) is a French movie. Claire Denis has directed this movie. Isabelle Huppert,Christopher Lambert,Isaach De Bankolé,Nicolas Duvauchelle are the starring of this movie. It was released in 2009. White Material (2009) is considered one of the best Drama,War movie in India and around the world.
Denis revisits Africa, this time exploring a place rife with civil and racial conflict. A white French family outlawed in its home and attempting to save its coffee plantation connects with a black hero also embroiled in the tumult. All try to survive as their world rapidly crumbles around them
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The setting for the film is a West African, French-speaking country riven by civil unrest and fighting between the army and rebels who consist of children, many orphaned. The rebels' icon and unofficial leader is a former soldier known as The Boxer (a cameo from Isaach de Bankole). Directed by Clare Denis she presents the country's unravelling situation and uses a non-linear narrative to loop back and forth within the 48-hour period that is the story's time frame. Amidst the mayhem we are slowly introduced to the owners of a coffee plantation, who are a white family of French origins: Maria Vial (Huppert), her ex-husband Andre (Lambert), their son Manuel and his grandfather Bernard. Living with the family is Andre's second wife/partner Lucie and their son Jose. At the point we meet the family they are 5 days from coffee harvest and their workers are fleeing the plantation afraid for their lives. They leave to return home because 'coffee is just coffee and not worth dying for'. Maria does not feel the same way and recruits some replacement workers to ensure a successful harvest. Meanwhile Andre, who shares the workers' fears, is plotting the family's escape which means selling the plantation to the local mayor who will ensure their safe passage out of the country. This is kept from Maria who has vowed never to leave. As events unfold it is obvious to everyone around Maria that the situation is becoming less stable and increasingly precarious. She refuses to see or acknowledge this. Interspersed throughout we hear a DJ allied to the rebels, used as a sort of narrator, playing reggae and making pronouncements against the existing government and white people, who are the 'white material' of the title. The film's narrative and characters make it difficult for the viewer to apprehend what is happening immediately and/or to like/relate to the characters easily. This is part of its success: the situation and people we are presented with are complex. Although of French origin and white we learn that Bernard and Manuel were both born in the country making them citizens. Maria has left France and never wants to return; she herself despises the white French people ('these dirty whites ... they don't deserve this beautiful land') and clearly does not perceive herself to be one even though the rebels and army see her as one such 'dirty white' who makes the country 'filthy'. Throughout is woven the theme of where is home and what it means to feel you belong and rooted in a situation where others label you an outsider. Maria is a tough fighter but lacks sensitivity and does not seem to realise, or wish to see, how she is perceived. We witness the tragic consequences of this to her, her family and the people who work with her as the film works to its conclusion. The film is beautifully shot with an atmospheric soundtrack provided by Tindersticks. The colours, the heat, the expanse are well evoked and make you realise why Maria loves it so she is prepared to risk her life and those close to her. There is spare use of dialogue and Huppert excels at the role of Maria, a difficult woman of few words. This is the sort of film that benefits from more than one watch as Denis packs in characters and events all of which add to the texture of the film and its politics.
Denis returns to Afriaca -- an undefined country there -- to explore colonialism and revolution in this film that has more in common with her wonderfully mysterious 'The Intruder' (2004) -- though it's less successful -- than with her warm-hearted family story '35 Shots of Rum' (2008). At the center here too is a family, the Vials, French colonial types who own a coffee plantation, or did own one. And at the center of this family is the scrawny, determined Maria (Isabelle Huppert), as brave as she is heedless. Everything is falling apart, but she simply won't give up -- or even acknowledge that there's any danger. But here, as in various African countries, government forces are at war with rebels and schools are closing and children are turning into dangerous, thrill-seeking warriors popping pills and wielding pistols, machetes, and spears. The plantation workers are fleeing just at harvest time, and the Vials themselves are warned by a helicopter flying overhead that it's time to get out. The rebel army's missing leader, known as "the boxer" (Isaach de Bankolé of Jarmusch's 'Limits of Control' and of Denis' original Africa film 'Chocolat') has reappeared, wounded, hiding out in the plantation, which makes it a double target. The family itself seems to have fallen apart some time ago, though as usual in Denis' films, the relationships and family histories aren't meant to be immediately clear. Maria's ex-father-in-law, Henri (Michel Subor of 'The Intruder') is mysteriously sick; he seems to know more than the others, but he is powerless; he reigns over nothing -- except that he is the real owner of the plantation. Maria's ex-husband André Vial (Christophe Lambert) has a son by a new young black wife, Lucie (Adele Ado). Maria and André have an older son, Manuel (Nicolas Duvauchelle), who has turned into a sluggard, and seems deranged. Later after being attacked and humiliated by two black boys (they rob him naked and cut off a lock of his blond hair), he shaves off the rest of his hair, takes a rifle and his mother's motorcycle, and becomes a wild rebel himself. Meanwhile André has made a deal with the wily black mayor (William Nadylam), presumably to get money to escape, and the mayor now owns the plantation, and feels whatever happens he'll be okay because he has his own private army. All the while there are messages over the radio broadcast by a disc jockey playing reggae and saying the rebels are coming. But soldiers in gray uniforms are coming to kill almost everyone, including some of the child soldiers, and some members of the Vial family after Manuel goes over to the rebels. None of this matters as much as the fact that Maria, a kind of foolish Mother Courage or life force, fights on till the end, even when the new workers she recruits flee, a sheep's head turns up in the coffee beans signifying doom, the power is cut, the gasoline runs out, and family members disappear or are killed. Maria repeatedly says she can't go back to France; to a young black woman she admits it's probably because she can't give up her power. She also says in France she couldn't "show courage." In short, she's useless anywhere else. She has contempt for the fleeing French soldiers, calling them "dirty whites" that never belonged here. This is her element. Unfortunately, her element is disintegrating. "White material," in English, is a phrase used variously by the African locals to denote possessions of the whites and the whites themselves. A child rebel comments that "white material" isn't going to be around much any more. Denis is good at creating a sense of the many-layered chaos. Her mise-en-scène is vivid and atmospheric. Yet something isn't quite right. The casting feels wrong. Butor is a relic from a better movie, Lambert is unnecessary. Duvauchelle, who has played rebels but determined, disciplined ones, seems out of place with all his tattoos as a youth born in Africa and a good-for-nothing. Nobody can play an indomitable woman better than Isabelle Huppert, but for that very reason it would have been a welcome surprise to see a completely new face in this role. As 'Variety' reviewer Jay Weissberg notes, the images by the new d.p. Yves Cape are less rich than those of Denis regular Agnes Godard, but may suit the violent action situation better, and the delicately used music is wonderfully atmospheric. This is definitely a Claire Denis film. What's unique is its sense of foreboding. You feel Maria is somehow bulletproof and yet you also fear that at any moment she'll walk into something she can't get out of. Still, after the wonderful warmth of '35 Shots of Rum' and the haunting complexity of 'The Intruder,' there doesn't seem as much to ponder or to care about here, and even if this is a fresh treatment of familiar material, it's a bit of a disappointment. From another director it might seem impressive and exceptionally original, but from Denis, is seems to lack something, some more intense scenes, some grand finale. Shown as part of the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center 2009.
White Material is a film about a coffee plantation in an unnamed African country (shot in Cameroon). Maria Vial (Isabelle Huppert) runs the place for her father Henri (Michel Subor). She has a layabout son called Manuel (Nicolas Duvauchelle) and a weak-willed husband André (played by Christopher Lambert of Highlander fame). The French army is withdrawing and the country is fractured into regular army, rebels, and newly-formed mad-dog local militias out for rape and pillage, sprung from the ground once law and order dissolves, like Ray Harryhausen's skeleton warriors of the dragon's teeth (Jason and the Argonauts). It's time to banish the White Material, that is white folk and the trappings of white living. Maria doesn't want to know though and stays on stubbornly trying to process her coffee crop. The film is quite pretty and captures the feel of Africa on the ground, of the isolation and the wild beauty, but also the extreme lurking danger. Denis has roots in Africa and so manages a lot of authenticity. The dialogue is occasionally awesome, soliloquies in which Maria curses whites and talks about Africa in relation to Europe particularly stand out. Unfortunately I think there are weak elements, Lambert isn't good enough and his character isn't even necessary (which goes for Henri too), Maria does something brutal and inexplicable at the end (in true clichéd Huppert style), and the film looks like it took a severe amount of cutting as there are plot threads that are barely picked up. The film has the feel of an overly condensed epic. The biggest problem though maybe the narrative structure, where the end occurs at the beginning, which in all frankness, and with due respect to a director who has entertained me with great films more than once, comes off as amateurish. As usual the Tindersticks provide a wonderful soundtrack for Denis, so important for an auteur to have a proper musical collaborator, but they basically paper over the cracks. The film is good enough if you just look at is as mesmerising anarchy, but it's not a multi-faceted Denis masterpiece. Isaach De Bankolé is underused as Le Boxeur, the rebel hero general, he's a symbol of a strong moral Africa, gut-shot and dying alone. This character lingers in the memory.
Chaos reigns in some nameless, war-torn African nation. A rag-tag guerrilla group searches the jungle wilderness for its charismatic wounded leader The Boxer, while some equally ruthless government soldiers try to hunt him down. As the signs of war multiply, The Boxer hides in some outbuildings at the Vial coffee plantation which has been abandoned by its workers. Fear surrounds the decaying French-owned estate where Maria Vial resides with her ex-husband Andre, their dissolute half-mad son and her hated father-in-law. Maria ignores warnings to leave and obsesses over the unharvested coffee crop, while Andre conspires with the sinister local mayor to hand over the property in exchange for safe passage out of the country. Director Denis makes no attempt to explore her characters, their relationships or the stories behind their present condition, apparently satisfied with documenting the surface symptoms of communal meltdown. She focuses on Maria, but reveals nothing about her heroine except for the foolish fixation on the neglected coffee beans. All the other characters possess similarly one-dimensional personalities - the Europeans are reduced to stereotypes of colonial decadence, while the Africans are portrayed as bloodthirsty and venal. When the film culminates in capricious madness it's impossible to care about anyone's fate, because it's obvious they are symbols existing in a metaphor. Denis doesn't appear to care either.
Set in an unnamed African country embroiled in a brutal civil war after transitioning from French colonialism to independence, the insanity of war has never received a more graphic portrayal than in Claire Denis' White Material. Named to reflect the contempt in which blacks hold the white colonialists, it is a film gripped by tension, violence, and eventual madness, but with a strong sense of place and a remarkable feeling of authenticity. Though White Material is less elliptical than many of her films which entice viewers to fill in the gaps with their own imagination, its lack of background information and non-linear chronology can make it, at least initially, a somewhat disorienting experience. Running a coffee plantation in the midst of the chaos, Maria Vial (Isabelle Huppert) lives with her ex-husband André (Christopher Lambert), her father-in-law Henri (Michel Subor) who owns the plantation, and her layabout teenage son, Manuel (Nicholas Duvauchelle). She insists on business as usual despite the fact that her workers have abandoned their jobs out of fear of the child soldiers who make up the bulk of the rebel army. Pursued by the government militia, a wounded rebel leader (Isaach De Bankole), known only as "the Boxer", takes refuge at the plantation, increasing the possibility of retaliation. Maria is warned by French soldiers from a helicopter that she should leave the country for her safety and that of her family, but she is proudly, if not blindly, determined to maintain the role that has always brought her security, though it is obvious from the first scene showing her alone on a road, that she has already been stripped of her colonial privileges. As author Andrew Sullivan once said, "When there's a challenge to our established world-view, whether from the absurd, the unexpected, the unpalatable, the confusing or the unknown, we experience a psychological force pushing back, trying to re-assert the things we feel are safe, comfortable and familiar." Refusing to face the inevitable, Maria goes into the village to recruit other workers, insisting that her coffee crop must be harvested, though it is unclear who she expects to sell it to. Without her knowledge, André begins to make arrangements to leave on his own and tries to make a deal with the mayor (William Nadylam) to sell the property. Even her son does not escape the madness. After being brutally attacked and stripped by young rebels, Manuel shaves off all of his hair, grabs a loaded rifle, and joins the rebel soldiers. In one of the most telling scenes, after several pharmacists are murdered, the rebel soldiers, who include both young boys and girls, sit on the grass ingesting the stolen drugs as if they were on a picnic. Despite the violence in White Material, there are some lovely moments evoked by cinematographer Yves Capes: wild dogs on a dirt road illuminated by the headlights of a car, the sounds of reggae music broadcasted by a disc jockey who promotes rebel causes, and the sight of Maria hanging onto the ladder of a bus filled with black refugees. Considering the depth and breadth of Denis' filmography, White Material may be a minor film, yet it is a graceful work of art, filled with a dreamlike quality that makes a strong statement about the dehumanizing effects of war, regardless of the rightness of the cause.