REVIEW / OPINION FILM – “Un triomphe” is Emmanuel Courcol’s second film after “Cease-fire”. This time he explores the prison world where a theater teacher played by Kad Merad decides to stage a play with inmates.
The prison world without clichés
” It’s the story of two guys in deep shit, who hope for a better tomorrow. Doesn’t that mean that to you? “. Adapting Beckett with prisoners is the story that Emmanuel Courcol’s second film tells us. People’s Choice Award Angoulême Festival, A triumph follows Etienne (Kad Merad), a struggling theater actor, who juggles food work to make ends meet. He agrees to host a theater in prison, with inmates he knows nothing about. It is then the beginning of a human adventure, alive and unexpected.
The film is adapted from a true story straight from Sweden in the 1980s. A triumph is like a cinema that wants to move away from the clichés of the prison world, which wants to tend towards a benevolent openness and a human approach to the environment. Time and again, the film dodges pitfalls and defies expectations. We find a desire to break down preconceived ideas, the project being very much based on documentary material. The result is up to par thanks to a plausible and realistic vision. We believe in it and that is the essential point.
Emmanuel Courcol stages a violent imaginary environment. Moreover, the film plays all the time with this seesaw, this border between joy and violence, comedy and tragedy, gentleness and aggressiveness. Without ever crossing it. But as a spectator, the fear is real. By adopting Etienne’s point of view, the film also shows the administrative cogs and codes at work in the prison system. Blockages, differences of points of view. In a short time and a few scenes, the film gives an account of the complexity of this universe. This is one of its strengths.
Another relevant choice – which feeds the discourse of the film – is that of completely avoiding the past of the inmates. We know nothing about them, or almost. This is howA triumph can develop the subject of second chance, to bring them to life instantly, without judgments. In this, the film approaches the work of prison staff, who often have no knowledge of the inmates’ past. He keeps this constructive logic which consists in bringing something positive in a universe which is not. The film refuses the simplifications that could give a fundamentally lighter tone to the film, without forgetting to be in a comic tempo, where a lot of life emerges.
Social cinema full of vitality
Cinema question, A triumph is linked to a genre close to social comedy à la Toledano-Nakache (Untouchables, Non-standard). Cinema that is successful and a realistic bias, which in the absence of originality of treatment, is a costume that suits him rather well. It is a gang film, a collective adventure, a theater film too. The staging adapts very well to these different visual and performance issues. The frame is not very fixed, it moves, lives.
Also, A triumph reserve surprises by his touching, comical and generous approach. We quickly think we have covered the story, yet the film skilfully defeats our expectations and a priori. He is unpredictable in his path. And even if the film is intentionally optimistic, it does not give in to the sirens of feel good easy movie, and tackles the prison question with more or less finesse. A triumph works thanks to its energy and vitality. The ingredients are simple but very effective.
This progressive discourse on the prison situation is not so common in the cinema. Emmanuel Courcol films flayed alive, but with life, and in the refusal of simplification. He rejects the easy discourse of repression to espouse that of reintegration through the art of comedy. In this, A triumph proves that it is not a comedy like the others.
For this film, rich in dialogue, to work, it needed a cast to match. Here again, the choice is astonishing, all the more so as it is successful. Kad Merad, narrowly touching, finds here one of his best (the best?) roles. He vigorously plays a character, stubborn and clever, in search of recognition. It’s very simple, it’s been a long time since the French comic actor had not moved so much, maybe never even like that. He is supported by a troop of convincing actors with Pierre Lottin, Sofian Khammes (discovered in Chouf), David Ayala, Lamine Cissokho or Wabinlé Nabié. Failing to be original …