Behind the inept controversy of his star’s remarks on the war in Ukraine, a fairly consensual film, but not devoid of audacity or intelligence.
This is the second time in his career that Omar Sy has played a Senegalese driven to France by the tragedies of history and trying to survive them, and the second time that his isolation, as well as the hostility of the world where he between, are mainly staged by language. After Samba of Toledano and Nakache, where he interpreted the role of a “sans-papiers”, here he is now as a skirmisher of the Great War, with a text entirely in Fulani, the only language spoken by his character Bakary, a shepherd who commits to protect his son Thierno, forcibly conscripted at the front.
A partition necessarily puzzle, but Omar Sy succeeds quite miraculously, embodying without any indecency this character in which he believes beyond the language. Probably here, because the whole film believes in it: Skirmishers is mostly spoken in the various African languages of the soldiers punctured by the French Empire in its colonies.
A Tower of Babel on the forehead
Behind the agreed moral lesson on war and racism that Mathieu Vadepied’s film does not necessarily spare us, hides all the same a certain challenge of staging and writing. No ridiculous scenario acrobatics come to artificially reinstate French, and the whole film therefore has no other choice than to really take charge of these famous destinies made invisible by History – really, that is to say one by one. one, and not a single shapeless block (very important detail: the skirmishers also have great difficulty understanding each other, depending on whether they come from different linguistic areas, speaking Fulani, Yoruba, etc.).
Of course, the sirens of war movie consensual and TF1-compatible are not long in sounding, and the film ends with an honorary apotheosis of his almost counterproductive character. But something has come into play here, which is indeed cinema: a desire to espouse by form rather subtle relationships of mutual incomprehension, a hypersubjective view of events (The Son of Saul, at times) stripped of some of the uplifting, clumsy portrayal tropes of war. It’s a pity that a handful of remarks, however absolutely banal, came to replace a film in the media that had nothing to do with it.
Skirmishers by Mathieu Vadepied with Omar Sy, Alassane Dion