email print share on Facebook share on Twitter share on LinkedIn share on reddit pin on Pinterest

CANNES 2024 Critics’ Week

Review: Animale


- CANNES 2024: Emma Benestan delivers a modern western and metaphorical fantasy film about a woman who has to find her place in a male-dominated world

Review: Animale
Oulaya Amamra in Animale

“I'll give you the blood of the bulls,” “bulls give you everything, but they take everything away from you.” In the powerfully evocative setting of the Camargue, with its marshes and ponds, the manades, or herds of free-ranging bulls, are a long-established tradition. And the “gardians”, who live on site and look after the animals, also take part in the Camargue races in the arena, where the “raseteurs” (on foot and unprotected) have to feint and touch the bull's forehead. It's a 100% male-dominated world in which French filmmaker Emma Benestan has decided to launch a fictional female heroine with her second feature, Animale [+see also:
interview: Emma Benestan
film profile
, unveiled at the close of Critics' Week at the 77th Cannes Film Festival.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

“A horn in your belly and you won't be able to have any more children.” Her mother is worried, but at 22, Nejma (Oulaya Amamra) is not the type to spend her life waiting at home. At Léonard's manade, she has learnt to earn the respect of the guys she works with (“I know you like me, but I've got other bulls to deal with”). Like them, she rides, corrals bulls, brands them, plants fences, breaks mares, spends evenings around the fire or in the local bar, and lives alone in the area, in a small isolated house. Her strength is recognised, but she still has to face up to her fear in the arena, where no girl has ever faced the bull. The ordeal is short-lived, however, because the bull in the running is injured and, after a night of collective inebriation, Nejma wakes up in a strange, sickly state, as if caught in a spider's web. Little by little, her sensations are altered and her body begins to metamorphose as a bull sows death around her...

With its Camargue setting and impressive black bulls, the rituals of a manade's micro-society, the physical intensity and pace of the story, and the actress (Oulaya Amamra) and supporting actors (Vivien Rodriguez and Damien Rebattel) giving their all: the film's boldness is to be commended, and its Minotaur-like supernatural element works (which was not a foregone conclusion). On the other hand, the metaphorical dimension and the real subject of Animale (no spoiler) are so predictable that the piece is clearly altered, with vigour not replacing subtlety, however good the initial intentions may be.

Animale was produced by June Films (France) and Frakas Productions (Belgium), and co-produced by France 3 Cinéma, Wild Bunch and RTBF. The film is internationally sold by Film Constellation.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

(Translated from French by Margaux Comte)

Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.

Privacy Policy