Les neiges du Kilimandjaro (The Snows of Kilimanjaro)

Poster for Les neiges du Kilimandjaro (The Snows of Kilimanjaro)

Autumn 2012 Features series

Sunday, December 9, 2012 at 4:00pm
Sunday, December 9, 2012 at 7:00pm

Acadia Cinema's Al Whittle Theatre
450 Main Street, Wolfville, NS

Directed by Robert Guédiguian

Screenplay by Robert Guédiguian and Jean-Louis Milesi

Based on the poem by Victor Hugo

Starring Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Gérard Meylan, and Ariane Ascaride

Rated NR · 1h 47m

View trailer

Les neiges du Kilimandjaro (The Snows of Kilimanjaro)
Set in a sun-splashed residential quarter of Marseilles, where the mechanics of shipbuilding that keeps bread on the table for the working folk are never out of view, The Snows of Kilimanjaro by French writer/director Robert Guédiguian begs you to start debating as soon as the credits roll.

We meet union shop steward Michel (Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Le havre), a passionate advocate for the working man, who insists his name go into the layoff lottery at the downsizing shipyard despite having a pass from the proceedings. Michel is among the unlucky selected and joins the unemployed. C’est la vie, he reasons, he has had a good run – not like the devastated young men who got the push with him. His wife Marie-Claire (Ariane Ascaride), who keeps house for an elderly widow, is not pleased, but what can you do? Afternoons by the sea, a pastis on the patio, more card nights at her sister’s place. Plus there is a lovely trip to Tanzania in their future, thanks to a generous anniversary gift from family, friends and coworkers given to them at a recent party. Maybe being bourgeois is not such a bad thing after all. They will manage.

Or they would have, but for a violent home invasion where Michel, Marie-Claire, her sister Denise (Marilyne Canto) and her husband Raoul (Gérard Meylan) are terrorized, bound and robbed by two mask-wearing thieves. Everything goes, from wedding rings to the tickets and cash for their trip. Worse, Denise is so traumatized, it seems she may never recover.

The shock will be all the more violent when they discover that this brutal attack was organized by one of the young workers laid off at the same time as Michel—one of their own people. After getting him arrested, Michel and Marie-Claire gradually discover that their attacker, Christophe (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet), only did what he did because he had no choice. He lives alone with his two younger brothers and takes very good care of them. They find that their initial vindictive satisfaction is soured by their realization of the assailant’s motives and the larger consequences of their revenge. Struggling with their conscience, the couple finds themselves independently trying to live up to their ideals for a greater sense of justice.

“Inspired by the Victor Hugo poem “How Good Are the Poor”, Guédiguian’s script is gentle in its presentation. The audience is invited to weigh in regularly — he’s not one to do the work for us. Thanks to the excellent work of main couple Darroussin and especially the charming, irrepressible Ascaride, we get a lesson in love and respect within marriage, family and friendships that completely engages. A memorable film to warm a winter heart.” (Linda Barnard, Toronto Star)

“Like the characters themselves, the performances are highly sympathetic but the film remains a social debate in the great 19th-century tradition: One can sense Guédiguian in the background lining up his arguments and his examples like a Hugo or a Dickens himself. He is never simplistic – the plot twists and turns, always adding new questions and new ambiguities – but in the end he is as much of a sentimentalist as his predecessors.” (Kate Taylor, The Globe and Mail)

“The setup offers a smart schema to distill a range of responses, from sympathy to revenge, that, as in a Western, distills great social forces to intimate issues. For Guédiguian, however, the most powerful social force is love—of the sort that arises from a community with deep roots and is nourished by class solidarity and principled collective action. His Communism is, in effect, erotic, nourished by sun and sea and a love of the body, at work and at play.” (Richard Brody, The New Yorker)