France 1988. 90 minutes. French with English subtitles.
Claire Denis’ extraordinary film follows the broiling relationships of foreign legionnaires in the unremitting heat of Djibouti. Commanding officer Bruno receives a passionate loyalty from Galoup (Denis Lavant), so when a handsome young recruit arrives and turns Bruno’s head, Galoup becomes wildly jealous.
To say the film is homoerotic is both incredibly true and yet somehow missing the point. These military bodies and emotions are kept throbbingly in check – until the final jaw-dropping scene.
“A gorgeous, compulsively poetic and semi-stylised film. Never for one moment does this shimmering, simmering emotional desert storm of a film relax its grip on your senses.” THE GUARDIAN
“Denis is concerned with men’s relationship to their own bodies. The careful way the legionnaires move and look at themselves, the way they shave, iron their clothes, make their beds – the film focuses on these simple rituals with intensely focused concentration.” CINESCENE
“Little is spelt out explicitly in this elliptical tale of repressed emotion leading to murderous jealousy, (but) the film is admirably accessible and clear throughout. The director… and her team create a fixed, timeless world of mysterious, balletic rites, rippled with simmering homoerotic tensions. The intensity of mood and thematic resonance both derive almost entirely from the poetic juxtaposition of music and the stunning images of beauty and sustained, even surreal strangeness. Prepare to be blown away.” TIME OUT
“As the glowing landscape – yellow sand, green water, white rocks – pulsates behind the men’s bodies, we enter into Galoup’s masochistic, waking dream in which the answer, over again, seems to be that it’s only the beautiful who belong.” SIGHT & SOUND