By José Sarmiento Hinojosa
Independent filmmaker Justine Triet, better known for her last shot Vilaine Fille Mauvais Garçon (2012) (which had a good run at Berlinale and a Cesar Award nomination) makes her debut feature film, called Age of Panic (The Battle of Solferino), in which the spheres of the private and the public collapse equally in an interesting parallel route, which depicts the days of the Sarkozy/Hollande election, a breaking point for French internal politics.
Recalling the famous battle of 1859 by Napoleon III against the Austrian Army (a battle whose cruelty would eventually lead to the creation of the Geneva Convention), Triet aptly directs this drama of expanding anxiety and confusion, in which the lives of reporter Laetitia (Laetitia Dosch) and his ex-husband Vincent (Vincent Macaigne) come into an inevitable crash among the blocks of the Parisian street of Solférino, in which parties of the French left and right await the results of the 2012 elections.
Triet proves to be an intelligent and diligent filmmaker, expanding the scope of her camera to a disquieting frantic first half in which the dramatic bubble of conflict between Laetitia and Vincent (dragging along a confused babysitter, a neighbor, an attorney student and a friend) bursts among thousands of people, collapsing the intimate structure of personal drama into a series of tense frictions of public/private affairs, which get tangled together in a first dramatic counterpoint which proves to be quite effective.
Reaching the second half of the film, while Hollande victory makes victory and celebration crumble with protests and violence, we return back to the private sphere in a remarkable scene with outstanding performances both by Dosch and Macaigne, where we catch a glimpse into the drama of children custody and past conflict. Anxiety catches a relief with humor infused moments, though the tension of the film is never broken. The film reaches a dramatic climax and then drifts into an uncomfortable and tense tranquility, which is a precise parallel for what happened with the French elections of last year.
A pleasant surprise for 2013, Age of Panic finds a confident Justine Triet managing a well-built ensemble and a solid cinematography, and meddles among a crucial day for France which proves to be also significantly exemplary of what French society can be on the inside, a so called intimate public case.
Director: Justine Triet
Producer: Emmanuel Chaumet
Cinematography: Tom Harari
Cast: Laetitia Dosch, Vincent Macaigne, Arthur Harari, Virgil Vernier, Marc-Antoine Vaugeois
Francia, 94 min