FILM_REVIEWS_The Triumph Of Emmanuel Courcol

The triumph, Emmanuel Courcol's fabulous film, evokes the topology of ancient kaleidoscopes. At each of its twists and turns, the scene is woven in layers, and behind the curtain, in the moment before it disappears, it performs a sublime act.

The tripod of film, theatre and real events delights the plot.

Etienne, an actor without a company and forever attached to a love of theatre, substitutes for a friend as a teacher in a French prison workshop. On his arrival he meets an apathetic group of extremely bored men. Prison life, he is told, is all about waiting. Waiting to get up, to get a plate of food, to get a furlough, to receive a letter and, of course, to be released. Listening, it occurs to him to propose a performance of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot". There is silence, bewilderment: what kind of fable is this? What is its message? Theatre of the absurd? To memorise such a text? And who are these guys waiting for whom? Where has this Godot got to?

The passion that grips Etienne gradually spreads to the prisoners. And so, what begins as a crazy idea takes shape. Its creator asks, or rather implores the prison warden, to be able to perform the play outside the walls, in the world, and everything that seemed impossible, overcomes obstacles and bureaucracy. The enthusiasm of the director unleashes a prodigious contagion that expands exponentially.

And so the day of the premiere would come, and of course, its success would be resounding. However, the play "Waiting for Godot", which had just begun to speak, to invoke its spirit, still had an ace up its sleeve. Once the triumph had been achieved, it would then be a question of repeating the operation in different cities of the country. The tour of the prison troupe set off all over France - which was in Sweden, according to the real events.

However, the sublime was yet to come. The management of the grand théâtre de l'Odeon in Paris wants to perform the play. Permits and obstacles seem, once again, insurmountable, and once again, Etienne succeeds. An imposing stage with curtains of heavy maroon felt, stalls filled with gilded rococo decorations and louis XV seats awaited them. Etienne's dream, by a surprising route, is about to come true: he will step onto the Odeon from the stage.

The day arrives. The audience is streaming in. The theatre is packed to the rafters. Expectation is at its peak. Celebrities, politicians, prison directors and ministers of justice have attended the event. Also the actors' families, and even the elusive daughter of the director. And lo and behold, ladies and gentlemen, the majestic curtain of the grand théâtre de l'Odeon rises, and the stage remains empty. All of Etienne's actors, or the prisoners of the French state, have fled. And each one will do with his escape, in a fleeting instant, what he likes the most, which is not exactly acting.

After the consternation, it is Etienne's moment; so he draws the curtains, takes a step forward - which is really a leap into the void- and goes on stage. There, he explains the course of this project of which they, the audience, have just learned the end. And that is how this story, which took place in Sweden in 1985, reached the ears of Samuel Beckett himself, and his words put the finishing touch to it: "nothing better could have happened to my play".

Thus, Emmanuel Courcol, in a tribute to art, writing, theatre, cinema and life, 35 years later, dedicates his film to this unusual event and shows us that the dividing line between fiction and reality is a vain illusion. That, as Freud said, and almost no one listened to him, more than speaking beings, we are spoken beings, and texts -those that are really writing- shape us, speak through us.

Beckett's work reveals the hollowed-out structure of religion, our little machine par excellence for giving meaning to existence. That unshakable hope is articulated in the iron belief in the great other: Vladimir and Estragon waiting for Godot after the death of god. Language is there the great protagonist, and, through Vladimir, Estragon, Pozzo and Lucky, it overflows, stammers, shouts, laughs, implores, plays, makes jokes... It delights us. The gaze lost in infinity, suspended in a few silences, outlines the shape of nothingness and abducts us to the feeling of primordial abandonment that constitutes us. And this is how we spend our lives waiting... Less amused than bored, because we don't want to know anything about how insignificant and absurd we are, and that perhaps, if we accepted that we are going to disappear anyway, we wouldn't do so many stupid things to hasten the end, and, above all, without any kind of fun.

Irene Domínguez