Sublime film on the fight against AIDS in the 90s, “120 beats per minute” deserves all the praise that was paid to it when it was released. But, by the way, how should we understand this title?
120 beats per minute : a moving and strong film
Awarded a Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 2017, 120 beats per minute is one of the great French films of the 2010s. For his third attempt, Robin Campillo went back to in the early 90s to evoke the battles of the Act Up-Paris association. As AIDS spreads and the number of victims increases, a gang of activists is stepping up to alert public opinion. The spectator discovers the organization of Act Up at the same time as Nathan (Arnaud Valois), a new volunteer who will meet a handful of people engaged in a fight that takes them to the guts. Among her, Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), an endearing young man with whom he will live a love story. Strong, intoxicating, tragic, political or even committed, we can talk about 120 beats per minute with a bunch of superlatives.
What meaning behind the title?
If the film is clear enough in its intentions, the title raises questions. This obviously echoes the heart, which races. Normally, if our heart rate climbs this high, we have to be concerned. But Robin Campillo did not want to imply anything negative. On the contrary, he confesses in an interview for Leisure TV thatit refers to house, a musical genre that comes up several times in the film and whose bpm is high. During the first part, we notably witness two dance scenes in a nightclub. Although the subject is serious, the characters also need to decompress and evacuate.
It was a bit like the soundtrack of this epidemic, music both joyful and melancholy.
Remember that Robin Campillo was inspired by his life for the screenplay and experienced the boom in house in France. He too was a member of Act Up and we imagine that these moments of dance marked him in the 90s. Music has, in general, a big place in 120 beats per minute. Moreover, the film ends with a sequence sprinkled with house, where the fight continues, despite the death that has happened there.