In his first feature film, Mansour Sora Wade chooses loosely to adapt fellow-Lebu Mbissane Ngom’s eponymous novel (Editions NEAS). The sea is omnipresent in this dramatic tale in which Yatma (Hubert Koundé, who is dubbed into Wolof) kills his best friend Mbanick, who was in the process of stealing both local glory and the beautiful Maxoye from him. She only agrees to marry Yatma so that he will have to raise Mbanick’s child who she is carrying. That is the « price of forgiveness ».
Constructed like a griot’s tale and rich in love, jealousy, murder, suffering and hatred, the film is directly related to mythology. The intent, of course, is to strengthen its message, which aims to be clear and contemporary, in the light of the conflicts tearing apart our times: nothing is immutable and if we are willing to pay the price, forgiveness can replace vengeance. Beware, however, the shark does not forgive. Voluntarily minimalist, Wade eliminates all unnecessary detail to get straight to the essential. The settings are reduced to a bare minimum, the sea is the main horizon, feelings are conveyed through glances rather than words, the materials worn are plain, the lights filtered, and the camera often focused on faces. The film thus achieves an incontestable plastic beauty. Certain scenes, accentuated by Wasis Diop’s powerful music, have the same visual quality and evocative power as Picc Mi, Wade’s short film that made such a strong impression in 1992.
But this is also precisely the problem with this overly beautiful and predictable film, which stops it from really engaging our emotions. Is it possible to re-constitute the failings that are life in such a pictorial image? Is it possible to find the anxiety and uncertainty that can make you adhere to a film in such a polished story? Whereas Picc Mi’s symbolised evocations worked, Le Prix du pardon proposes an elegant choreography, but the dances and play between the bodies remain ecstatic. The drama played out in the film struggles to penetrate such a highly-constructed image, and you end up regretting not seeing more of the village on the beach and the fishermen fishing i.e. the things that could have conferred life’s depth on the story.Olivier Barlet
2001, 35 mm, 90 min, screenplay: Mansour Sora Wade and Nar Sene, cinematography: Pierre-Olivier Larrieu, music: Wasis Diop and Loy Ehrlich, Prod. Films du Safran/Kaany Prod., starring Hubert Koundé (Yatma), Rokhaya Niang (Maxoye), Gora Seck (Mbanick), Alioune Ndiaye (Amul Yaakaar), Nar Sene (Peer), Thierno Ndiaye Doss (Adu Seck), James Campbell (Baay Sogi), Dieneba Niang (Yaay Rama). ///Article N° : 5570