100 Days, a fiction that deals with the massacres perpetrated in a church in Rwanda, exposes horror by showing it crudely. The images and editing are efficient; the suspense is maintained before the massacre, which is shown in all its cruelty. It stops at nothing in order to force emotion: zooms, filters, lighting, close-ups, slow-motion and hemoglobin. The blue helmets are ordered to leave the Tutsis behind in a church, French soldiers are accused of being racists and supporting extremists, children picked out from a classroom are burned alive in a gas station, a priest rapes a young woman
Even if the true nature of these happenings are not necessarily to be doubted, all of this is given as a reality à la Spielberg in Schindler’s List: a historical reconstruction which uses fiction to show itself to be true.
We know that all of this happened but showing horror in this manner puts the spectator in a state of hypnosis that stops any thinking process. How can one maintain a critical distance when in a state of shock? The Ouagalese public of the Fespaco left the movie theatre in the middle of the screening because they could not stand the images. Healthy reaction! It is scandalous to take the spectator hostage in such a way. « Pain is not a star », Godard used to say in his Histoires du cinéma. What’s the point in showing horror if only to prove that it exists, is appalling and distressing? The only inkling of humanity embodied by the child-soldier who picks up the baby abandoned by the woman who has been raped is a bit weak as a means to restore hope. The spectator can only be downcast, when a work of art on such a topic ought to make of men’s monstrosity an issue to restore reflection on the future of human beings. On the scale of the entire film, we find the issue of Kapo‘s traveling shot raised by Jacques Rivette in Les Cahiers du cinema after the war: aesthetizing horror amounts to fetishizing it. We tend to glorify what we are trying to fight. War films are popular because they play on the fascination for violence, as Coppola demonstrated in Apocalypse Now or Oliver Stone in Platoon. 100 Days revolves around the same ambiguity and thinks it can make things progress by describing the monstrosities that were perpetrated. After all, the film could have gone even further into the unbearable, as the Arusha reports showed the extent to which the horror in Rwanda went beyond all understanding, like in all other modern genocides.
So what is the limit to what can be shown? That which does not prevent the spectator from thinking: hinting is necessary, since we know the facts. 100 Days, which goes very far, banks on squeamishness and in the end, only serves itself.
Translated by Céline Dewaele///Article N° : 5937