75th Venice Film Festival: L’enkas Review
For a large number of former prisoners, getting out of jail is the first step of a long and complex journey of starting anew. One might expect that being released from prison should be closely associated with a newfound sense of freedom, but is it?
Ulysse (Sandor Funtek: Blue is the Warmest Colour, A Wedding), a young man, has just left the prison; he wants to make quick money, but in his case, want doesn’t mean get. With massive medical bills of his depressed mother Gabrielle (Sandrine Bonnaire: Catch the Wind, A Season in France) mounding up, he comes up with a plan – along with his friend David (Alexis Manenti: Just a Breath Away, 9 Fingers) – to sell drugs from a food truck at random rave parties. While involving himself in illegal activities, Ulysse builds a plan in his mind; if everything goes well, he can finally live his life to the fullest without worrying for his mother or, for that matter, finances. Of course, everything he hoped for gradually collapses, including Gabrielle deteriorating due to depression. How far will Ulysse go to survive?
With Ulysse as the protagonist, Sarah Marx feature L’enkas is off to a flying start. The French director draws an honest, realistic yet intricate portrait of ordinary people and their familial relationships. The film offers no cliche division between good or bad; instead, Marx in a compelling way shows that there are no truly wicked people, just people whose decisions are not necessarily smart or considerate.
With a multilayered narrative portraying Ulysse’, David’ and Gabrielle’s own struggles, the audience witnessing their hopes and fails. For Ulysee, it is not just a fight for survival, but also the battle with his mother depression, while she herself has her own demons to face. Without any personal judgment, Sarah Marx directed an extraordinary cast of characters, with Ulysee and Gabrielle portrayed by the talented Sandor Funtek and the veteran actress Sandrine Bonnaire. They made for the perfect mother and son duo on screen and their scenes made for some of the strongest moments in L’enkas, gluing many viewers to their seats.
One of the essential aspects of the film is its music score; it gives the viewers the ability to experience the sadness and despair that Ulysse and David feel, particularly in the rave scene. Marx worked with Laurent Sauvagnac and Lucien Papalu (one of the most influential hip-hop artist in 1990’s France) on the film score; the result of their work is extraordinary.
L’enkas’ dark colours seem to be carefully composed for each frame by its cinematographer Yoan Cart to affect the viewers’ watching experience without them realizing it – the dark blue hues undoubtedly deepen the film’s narrative. In addition to the great cinematography, the editing by Karine Prido is spotless; she connected the pieces of the narrative with masterful strokes. The great cinematography and editing successfully culminated in a visually impressive feature.
For a mere 85-minute film, the writers Ekoue Labitey, Hame Bourokba (founders of the rap group La Rumeur, which has been active for the past 20 years) and Marx created an authentic and engaging story with occasional bitter bites. A detailed development of the characters turned out to be unnecessary as their situations explained their personas substantially. Ultimately, L’enkas is a compelling feature worth watching from the emerging female director Sarah Marx.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
All photos © L’Enkas