Atlantics review - Where stunning visuals convey the larger picture

Atlantics review - Where stunning visuals convey the larger picture
Movie Rated

Director Mati Diop’s Atlantis has a visual way of making you feel relatable even though you haven’t been to the locations of the shoot. The film opens with buildings which are under construction. The presence of dust makes you understand that this place is under construction, while it all looks glossy outside, some labourers are not being paid for three months, despite doing every chore to complete the building. A kind of glimpse we also got in James Cameron’s Titanic. The ship managed to look magnificent and glossy outside since there were labourers in the darkest corner of the ship, working with the hottest iron only to make sure that the ship does not sink…but when the vessel hit an iceberg, the bottom of the ship was the first to crack open. Atlantis begins on a similar glimpse. The unpredictable ocean is a frequent visual in Mati Diop’s Atlantics but given its disloyal judgement for the people of Senegal, the director takes a second look only to make sure that the waves remain hypnotic. It remains the right decision for a film which has the essence of a melancholic romance. A group of young men set out for Spain in an open boat when they realise that there's have no place for them in this side of the country. Hence, they decide to float to Europe. There are few things which Diop leaves unsaid. There’s no mention of why Ada’s illicit relationship with Souleiman is a problem and what makes it impossible for her to acknowledge her grief in public. Before we completely grasp this new kind of trouble, we are introduced to a wedding scene with celebratory singing clashes and female guests. Before you are about to picture a bride and groom, Mariama tells Ada about seeing Souleiman among the crowds and suddenly an arsonist sets the party on fire. Literally. The bridal bed remains smokes and ashes. As said earlier, there are a few things which the director has left unsaid and we can forgive it because this isn’t a film which demands your logic, but an idea to view another idea and to understand a perception that necessarily may not be yours. At some point, you are bound to be divided whether Diop is trying to make a bold or easy choice by completely shifting to a ghost territory. It partly reminded me of Pirates Of Carribean when Elizabeth comes to know about her father being dead after watching his soul floating on a boat that’s meant to carry dead people. Except, none of those souls wanted payback. Those left behind have an idea that almost has a supernatural presence in it along with a strong-willed sense of independence, which is why they confront the practice of wearing a hijab. It is difficult to balance a strong sense of dislike for the disturbing atmosphere along with a satisfying sense of catharsis. Atlantics slightly gets problematic when the script fails to give enough base to Issa and thereby leaves her uncertain. They also avoid same-sex awkwardness which gets confusing especially in a film that’s trying to show that hijab may not be the best idea sometimes, especially not without a woman’s consent. The film remains refreshing mainly because this is after all the first feature film where Senegalese men who make a dangerous escape after a voyage at the Atlantic ocean as refugees. The focus on the painful emotions of separation, women left behind, financial situation touches us deeply and that’s what makes us want to see more. The hierarchy also remains visibly visual, and you get the context without any narration or dialogues to help you out. Reportedly, Diop had collaborated with non-actors and that’s what kept the film real till the end.

Rating: 3.5/5

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