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ANGOULÊME 2023

Review: Anti-Squat

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- Should we adapt, accept everything or revolt? Nicolas Silhol once again drills down into the darker recesses of modern capitalism, depicting a woman confronted with genuine moral dilemmas

Review: Anti-Squat
Louise Bourgoin in Anti-Squat

"You have to hit hard. It’s part of the job. If you don’t have it in you to fire them, then you’re the one I’ll have to let go." After focusing on the cynical excesses of "lean management" in the captivating 2017 movie Corporate [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Nicolas Silhol
film profile
]
, an equally perverse strategy aimed at combatting illegal property occupation is unpicked by Nicolas Silhol - once again by way of the torturous dilemmas of a female protagonist - in his second feature film Anti-Squat [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, which was unveiled in a world premiere at the 16th Angoulême Francophone Film Festival ahead of its release in French cinemas on 6 September via Diaphana. The result is a clinical tableau of a contemporary society where twisting ideas in the name of profit plays shamelessly on a growing state of general precariousness, placing people in morally impossible situations.

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At 35 years of age, Inès (Louise Bourgoin) doesn’t really have a choice: an estate agent looking for a job and raising her teenage son Adam (Samy Belkessa) on her own, she needs to find housing fast because her landlord wants to sell her current home. But in order to do so, she needs a permanent job. For this reason, she accepts an offer of a two-month trial at Anti-Squat, a company experimenting a Dutch initiative in France (which is now a permanent thing, following a law passed in June of this year): in order to prevent squatters, temporary residents are housed in empty buildings in exchange for incredibly low rents, but they don’t enjoy the usual rights afforded to renters and they must follow very strict rules: no more than two guests, no parties, no animals, no children, no eating in the bedrooms or closing doors, and so on and so forth.

Leaving her high-schooler son alone in Paris, Inès subsequently moves to the outer suburbs and into a vast, deserted commercial building. She finds tenants for the property (a nurse, a teacher, a private driver, an actress, an odd-job man, etc.) and monitors the premises (via cameras too), trying to adapt to her role and to ensure the rules are respected, despite knowing that they’re lacking in humanity, all under the critical eye of her rapper-son and under pressure from a financially stretched hierarchy. The more time passes, the more Inès’ dilemmas grow in size. Should she revolt? And if so, how should she do this, without annihilating her and her son’s future prospects?

Carried by a main character rendered almost unkind by circumstances, Anti-Squat paints a highly accurate picture of a merciless social and economic climate, and the very real human impact that this has, notably in terms of the education of children who are taught values which they see us flouting on a daily basis. The cold nature of the film’s mise en scène and décor (nigh-on dystopic) is perfectly in tune with the tone of this highly instructive and relatively uncompromising film, which falls with honours within the tradition of social cinema of denunciation, as seen through the prism of morally torn individuals.

Anti-Squat is produced by Kazak Productions and sold worldwide by Best Friend Forever.

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(Translated from French)

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