By Monica Delgado

The 72nd edition of the Berlin International Film Festival began in person against all odds. And a good symptom of the program’s commitment were the films selected for the initial date, such as the world premiere of the recent work by French filmmaker Alain Guiraudie, the comedy Nobody’s Hero (Viens je t’emmène).

That Guiraudie continues to make comedies from an ingenuity and creativity beyond any formula will always be an exceptional event. Although the filmmaker has managed to build a work over the last few years from a series of stable reasons (an absurd sense of humor at times, anti-paradigm characters, entanglements with a deux ex machina brand that is almost his personal hallmark), there is a share of irony always in his works, raised from a staging that seeks to disrupt any gender corset. His films are comedies whose form is also expressed as political criticism, especially in this film where it is inevitable to associate it with a reality around the migrant who is looked at with disdain. If in L’inconnu du lac (Stranger by the Lake, 2013), the beach appears as an arcade for the free will of gay vacationers, here the small city of the film is transformed into a space for interaction against the fear of the other, with a a hotel that works as a place of operations, with houses in the suburbs, with churches as a space for lovers’ dates, or with the offerings in the memorial for the victims of the attack.

Viens je t’emmène takes place in the city of Clermont-Ferrand, and as in Guiraudie’s previous works, here the territory, as an essential cartography for the encounter and disagreement of characters, becomes the shelter of a microcosm from a terrorist attack, the trigger for a story about the feelings and prejudices of an Islamophobic society.

From the point of view of the protagonist, the antihero Médéric (played by the actor Jean-Charles Clichet), the filmmaker interweaves, using the resource of entanglement, the networks of neighbors and friends in this small town and around the appearance of Sélim (Illiès Kadri), a young Arab homeless in the family building and who coincides with the terrorist attack and dozens of suspicions. This fact, which brings to the surface the fears towards the Arab, is exposed by Guiraudie without appealing to commonplaces, and rather he does it to deactivate any prejudiced idea that arises from the characters, and to show an empathetic community (perhaps as a utopia in the face of a disenchanted reality). When this France that Guiraudie draws takes on the tone of fantasy (a world of respect and defense of the freedom of the other as a response to any authoritarianism, discrimination or terror), the comedy is more absurd and humorous.

Viens je t’emmène is also a hilarious story of romantic love (or amour fou). As viewers, we witness from the first minutes the approach of Médéric and Isadora (Noémie Lvovsky), a veteran sex worker, who will take the protagonist through other areas of contention. Although from the beginning, Guiraudie introduces us to his protagonist from his friendly and loving relationship with Isadora, the love bond is almost never completed, achieving an atmosphere of sexual tension and frustration that governs almost the entire film.

As in Le roi de l’évasion (The King of Escape, 2009), L’inconnu du lac or Rester vertical (Staying Vertical, 2016), in Viens je t’emmène, Guiraudie composes the portrait of a community in resistance, already be it from the sexual or social aspect, and from all the potential that comedy allows. Without a doubt, it is a work that confirms a great French filmmaker, and also the good atmosphere, for the moment, of a special edition of a pandemic festival.

Director and script: Alain Guiraudie
Cinematography: Hélène Louvart
Editing: Jean-Christophe Hym
Music: Xavier Boussiron
Sound design: Nathalie Vidal
Sound: Philippe Grivel
Production design: Emmanuelle Duplay
Producer: Charles Gillibert
Cast: Jean-Charles Clichet, Noémie Lvovsky, Illiès Kadri, Michel Masiero, Doria Tillier
France, 2022, 100 min.