This entry was posted on March 1st, 2018

By Jose Sarmiento Hinojosa

Clarisse Hahn is no alien to foreign territories. For years, she was personally involved in documenting the phenomena of migration, identity and the manifestations of post-colonialism. Hahn’s bodies are an element of intrusion, a physical demonstration of resistance against the apparatus of power. In her documentaries, the skin is explicitly symbolic: deprived of every right, the last human resource lies in what is intrinsically theirs, what can’t be stripped off, the biological equivalent of a shield, or a banner. In this exploration of the flesh, the organic is a particular vessel for sexual manifestation, or political struggle.

These two elements, the biological (incarnated in the figure of the body) and the political (post-colonialist clashes between cultures) find shelter in Mescaline, Hahn’s first fiction which continues the logic and theme of her last work, Queridos Amigos (2003), an epistolary fiction/documentary about a migrant father that returns to his land, Mexico. If the latter was an absent narration from the point of view of the Mexican visitor, Mescaline turns the tables and narrates the story of a French couple who invades Mexican territory in a drug trip.

The bodies in Mescaline, slowly penetrate this Mexican area in the border of Mexico and the U.S. At first, everything seems like an innocent harmless trip, as the couple looks for the mentioned drug in the desert in some search of transcendence, which is obviously elusive, and manages to get involved with the town villagers. Slowly, like a virus, they both inoculate themselves against a different culture, with different codes, like a recklessness act of transgression.  And in this biological universe of Hahn, the villagers, (who represent themselves in the film) as a collective body, immediately reject the disease, spiraling the whole exchange into a violent, traumatizing experience.

The tension between the fictional and the documented is incredibly disturbing: reckless Agathe (Agathe Bonitzer) joins a group of male villagers out to drink and hunt. Mehdi (Mehdi Dehbi) enters the town and disturbs the animals and the local supply of water. Meanwhile, the village transmutes its first good disposition into a role of both the transgressor and the defender, a binary role turned against the couple. A day after, the cards are played, and the trauma sets in (a particularly remarkable film is a close up shot of Agathe Bonitzer frantically eating an ice cream, trying to soothe her body from the trauma).

Mescaline successfully involves the political and the biological through this tale, and it’s impossible to disassociate with the body of work that Hahn has created for over a decade. It’s a reflection on how the aftermath of the colonized world has created different discourses that are completely alien and quite conflictive, and how the present is dealing with the issue of migration and multiculturalism, seen from the particular gaze of the other. It’s a political work which deals with the strange peculiarities of a post-colonial universe, this strange place that we’re inhabiting and whose borders are being disturbed, its population, changed, its identity, transformed.

Director: Clarisse Hahn
Cast: Agathe Bonitzer, Mehdi Dehbi, the villagers of Maroma.
Cinematography: Jeanne Lapoirie
Editing: Oktay Sengul
Production: les films du belier
France, Mexico, 45 min