Téchiné: Life beyond AIDS
by Annika Pham
Two years after Changing Times [+see also:
film profile], French filmmaker Andre Téchiné is back in official competition at the Berlinale with Les témoins [+see also:
film profile] (The Witnesses), a film depicting the onset of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s.
Summer 1985. Carefree, gay 20 year-old Manu (Johan Liberau) comes to Marseille to stay with his sister (Julie Depardieu). There, he meets 50 year-old physician Adrien (Michel Blanc), with whom he develops a friendship. The latter soon introduces him to a married couple, Sarah (Emmanuelle Beart), a writer with writer’s block, and Medhi (Sami Bouajila), a vice squad cop.
As Manu penetrates deeper and deeper into the couple’s life, he draws out Medhi´s secret desires and both men start to have an urgent love affair, until AIDS chooses Manu among its first victims in France and forces the characters to cope with reality. All witness Manu´s rapid decline and final moments. But life goes on. Adrien finds a new lover and Medhi goes back to Sarah who, however, chooses to put Manu´s story down to newly found words. (Hence the film’s title.)
“This period touched me deeply as I have close relations who died of AIDS”, explained Téchiné during today’s press conference. “This film came from a very personal need because I personally lived through this period and felt that I had escaped this fate”, he continued. “But instead of showing the characters’ complacency before such a terrible fate, I wanted them to aspire to happiness, to show that beauty in the world does exist”.
Téchiné is noted for his often lyrical examination of human life but, unlike Les roseaux sauvages, this film lacks an emotional charge and thus received only a lukewarm reception.
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