Directed by Claire Denis
Running time: 90 min
Beau Travail (1999) is French director Claire Denis' second feature; a starkly beautiful and subtle film that is loosely based on Herman Melville's unfinished novella 'Billy Budd'. Denis resets Melville's naval tale in the French Foreign Legion, where a group of men are toiling away in a remote postal outpost of former French colony Djibouti. Focusing on the triangular relationship between well respected commander Forestier, beautiful new recruit Sentain and embittered and jealous commander Galoup – the latter played by a superb Denis Lavant – the film is a tale of repression and martyrdom set to extracts from Benjamin Britten's Melville-inspired opera 'Billy Budd'. Time seems slowed down as the days drift by, filled with the blur of physical training and strangely balletic exercise rituals but tensions begin to rise as Galoup grows visibly irritated at the easy going nature of his new recruit. Denis saw analogies between the French Foreign Legion and the naval world of 'Billy Budd' since both embody an exclusively “...male world, with internal rules and codes of honour” where homosexuality is taboo and self-denial key. The film's stunning camerawork, by Denis' regular collaborator Agnès Godard, foregrounds the erotic physical beauty of the soldiers physiques and Denis lets movement, gesture and glance suggest more than dialogue. Denis is one of France's most exciting contemporary directors and this homoerotic masterpiece, set in a shimmering dessert void, where light and heat create an 'other' place that seamlessly blurs the real and imagined, highlights the true depths of her talent.
Reservation is not necessary, but places are limited. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.