Pacifiction15¦ Blu-ray, DVD
The reason we watch films is to experience emotions. For instance, you can get an adrenaline kick from an action flick, or feel a deep sense of dread from a horror film.
Occasionally however, a film will come along and make you feel completely nonplussed. Pacifiction is one such film.
Assigned the role of high commissioner on a French Polynesian island is De Roller (Benoît Magimel). He has a number of roles, which even includes him overseeing the direction of a dance routine by a troupe of indigenous dancers, in the local hotel.
His curiosity is triggered with the arrival of a French admiral and a number of his marines who suddenly appear in a local club. This sparks rumours that they are here to oversee the possible return of nuclear testing to this area.
This certainly wouldn’t help in terms of tourism to the area, so De Roller is keen on getting to the truth of it all. But despite his heady position, ascertaining the reason for their sudden appearance proves to be frustratingly difficult.
To say that Spanish director Albert Serra’s film is a nearly three hour dose of sheer arrogance and self-indulgence is an understatement. It is a feature that has no consideration for its audience, as Serra produces a film solely for his pleasure. And yet it still somehow works, strangely.
It has the kind of pace that would feel slow to a snail, as it goes nowhere really slowly for its overlong duration. There is a nucleus of a fascinating story buried deep within, which the director mostly ignores for the most monotonous of scenes of random people dancing. Or drinking. Or just sitting at a table. At times it’s a film that is the very definition of tedium.
But just like a ridiculous app that only produces whale song to supposedly help you sleep, as preposterous as it is, it has an almost mesmeric quality to it. In fact at times it feels more like a travelogue than a film with any semblance of narrative, as the camera pans around at the impressive scenery the island has to offer.
There’s also an incredible scene featuring surfers, which adds nothing to the story as a whole – what little there is of it – but still manages to be an impressive piece of filming.
And there’s an enigmatic performance from Magimel, who almost floats effortlessly from scene to scene.
It’s a film you could describe as hypnotic, almost somniferous even, as it’s quite likely to suspend you between the worlds of wake and sleep.
And then there’s its ending, which feels like a skit on an episode of The Simpsons that may just push you over the edge, especially considering if you’ve had the endurance to make it thus far.
So a massive exercise in the director stroking his own ego then. And yet there are the occasional glimpses of a narrative worth following. It’s certainly not the kind of film that could ever have a second viewing, so if you do you’re just indulging in your own sadist tendencies, but as a piece of almost experimental cinema, it has some merit.
It’s fitting then, that as a French film, it has that je ne sais quoi quality, which may well leave you feeling curiously mystified.