Film Review – Le Havre (2011)

Still from Le Havre (2011)

Le Havre directed by Ari Kaurismäki takes one into the daily disparity of this port city, located in Northern France. This town was once the muse of the Impressionists and has been romanticized for generations. However Kaurismäki’s return le Havre brings to light another gray city on water that serves as a conduit to the global economy.  

The main protagonist is Marcel Marx who spends each day casually walking the streets searching for a crowd for whom he can polish shoes. The film opens with Marx standing at the train station, as an announcement for the train to the Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris rings out. However the desire to venture out to the city quickly fades as the station empties and Marx departs with no interest from outgoing passengers. On the way to his small house, Marx picks up a baguette on tab and lives a rather easy but disparate life.

The film picks up when Marx encounters Idrissa, a young orphan from Africa, and hides him from immigration officials, keen on deportation. Distracted by an urgency with nothing to gain and little to lose, Kaurismäki turns the efforts of Marx, locating the youth’s family, into a larger metaphor that signifies deep ironies behind immigration and globalization.

Still from Le Havre (2011)

“The European cinema,” remarks the director, “has not much addressed the continuously worsening financial, political and above all, moral crisis that has led to the ever-unsolved question of refugees.” At a time when Europe is closing its borders, Le Havre addresses the paradox underscoring multi-culturalism that first grows, then fades based upon a combination of luck and empathy.

Starring: André Wilms, Kati Outinen and Blondin Miguel

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