Demain je brûle

By Mohamed Ben Smaïl (Tunisia)

The voyage of an outcast
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A Tunisian immigrant ruined by exile, physically weakened and mentally diminished by his stay in France, returns to the fold to die at the end of a long journey in which he retraces the course of his memory, visiting places and friends

After having made a name for himself in the theatre and cinema, here the Tunisian actor Mohamed Ben Smaïl negotiates his move over to directing with his very first film, Demain, je brûle, which is constructed along the lines of a thriller, and in which he sublimates the theme of the descent into hell in the urban milieu, inspired by the daily drama experienced by immigrants. He himself plays the role of Lofti, a ravaged immigrant, whose face is scarred by illness, and whose uncertain gait reflects his ill-ease. The disquiet is clear right from the first image when he appears under the overground bridge of the Paris metro, floating in a ample, dark overcoat, a duffel bag slung over his shoulder, as he leaves his wife and two children. This man’s drama is summed up by a phrase by the writer Borges which can be read on a wall: « The face, the face in the mirror, the labyrinth ». An intense emotion runs through this family split-up scene, which the homeward-bound immigrant Lofti chooses to express in a disturbing silence.
His hair ruffled, walled into in his silence, Lofti abandons wife and children in Paris to go back to his ageing parents in quest of maternal comfort, to suck the sap of his cultural roots, in an effort to rediscover his memory in an effort to avoid an imminent shipwreck. He lands in the Tunis-Carthage airport, duffel bag on his back, his face haggard. A taxi driver, his childhood friend, hails him down and drives him to his parents’ who warmly welcome the returning prodigal son. He stays stonily on the doorstep of the family home, his gaze empty, without saying a word. He flees again, and, like a poor wretch pursued by death, heads off to find his old friends. He wanders through the sites of his childhood in search of a life belt. He is welcomed by one of his friends, a fisherman, whose servant (played by Amel Hedhili, who starred in Les Silences du palais by his compatriot Moufida Tlatli) ends up being raped. The metallic screeching of a door underlines the violence of this scene which symbolizes the behaviour of the characters in question. And it is here, in this house where a woman is wounded in her flesh, that the hero Lofti breathes his last breath, without ever breaking his mask of silence…
In a highly nuanced composition, the hero Lofti, a character consumed by an incandescent interior turmoil, and who never says a single word, manages to communicate the extent of his suffering through his heavy silence. He dies, victim of his solitude, of his inability to share his doubts, his illusions, and his hopes with others. Alone in a crowd that no longer knows what sharing and tolerance mean, Lofti is annihilated by the unbearable vision of emptiness. A range of characters who are sensitive to his disquiet gravitate around him, however. The filmmaker places them in a conflictual situation in order to depict the inability to communicate, intolerance, and selfishness in a society that was once based on sharing. The death of the immigrant Lofti serves as a plea for a return to the essential values that form the basis of community life.

///Article N° : 5382


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