“Je Veux Voir”: A Film that Never Reached its Potential

Colgate’s Friday Night Film Series showcased the 2008 French drama “Je Veux Voir” (I Want to See) on Friday, February 22, as part of its ongoing study into movies about war, violence and their aftermath. Directed by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, the film first debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. Critics gave it little praise for its one-note tone and its use of powerful imagery without coherent meaning.

The film follows French actress Catherine Deneuve, playing herself, as she visits war-torn Beirut, Lebanon in the wake of the 2006 Lebanon War. As she and her driver, played by Rabih Mrou, engage with the city’s landscape, an air of danger and instability follows them. The entire film is a cascade of scenes that contemplate beauty and its lack thereof in a devastated area that still retains its history and culture in a precarious balance.

Though the film seems to carry with it heavy ethical implications and a feeling of depth, the images never connect enough with the audience to create coherent moral meaning. The end result reads as a hollow attempt to say something noteworthy. The filmmakers rely too heavily on the audience to create meaning out of a string of scenes.

The movie never presents a meaningful argument to justify the blurred lines between fact and fiction. An actress plays herself, but the danger she faces is never able to translate into that same reality for the viewer. It constantly disorients the audience so that they know at every painful second that this is a movie and therefore not real. Yet, this has no greater implication on what the movie is trying to say about war and its aftermath. Rather, it seemed a cheap grab at metafiction and a dismantling of craft in order to create the illusion of a deeper message.

Even with these drawbacks, the movie does do striking work as a compendium of pictures in a country affected by war. It is like a moving photograph album that turns its pages for you. Just when you think you’ve understood the wreckage and still beauty of a photo, the movie is turning you to the next page and asking you to contemplate more of the same images shot from another angle.

“It was interesting and moving to watch for the first 20 minutes. And then you realized it was just going to be another 25 minutes of the same images repeated in another way. That’s when we all sort of started to lose interest,” sophomore Gianna Irwin said.

As the audience left Golden Auditorium in Little Hall, a sense of incompleteness could describe their mood. It seemed like the audience grasped components of something important portrayed in the film, yet was unable to find the overall meaning in “Je Veux Voir.”

Contact Andrew Kish at [email protected].