By Sascha Krieger
La prière (Competition / France / Director: Cédric Kahn)
Thomas is a beaten young man – or boy, which never really becomes clear. Bruised are his face, his body, his soul. He checks into a religious retreat for addicts such as him. Angry at first, he becomes milder as he first falls in love and then finds God – which v´creates a new conflict. The film indulges in long shots which at their most effective when they document Thomas‘ struggles, especially early on. Anthony Bajon plays him as a blank page, but one previously written on. Close-ups abound, there is a restlessness in the images that corresponds with Thomas‘. The narration is linear yet there remain gaps between the scenes. Which is the film’s main issues. Its unwillingness to explain what happens in-between to Tomas does not open rooms for imagination, it fragments Thomas‘ character and eventually the entire story. None of his developmental steps feel plausible, yet all are quite predictable – not a great combination. The film dwells long on the community’s rituals, the prayers, the testimony, the ritualised apologies. Scenes are repeated with different personnel to showcase Thomas‘ growth. The problem is that a predictable plot the effects and objectives of which are always in plain sight clashes with the film’s refusal to take a stance. It seems to look at its subject with rather little interest. The problem isn’t that the film doesn’t provide answers, it doesn’t seem to care about the questions. So it leaves the viewer with the most clichéd possible endings. And the impression that mechanics beat substance here.