Darkest heart - Page 2

Claire Denis' parable of postcolonial Africa

Coffee plantation owner Maria Vial (Isabelle Huppert) stubbornly holds her ground in White Material's unnamed country

White Material begins at the end, with unattached subjective images of someone searching the plantation house with a flashlight. The beam settles on certain talismanic objects (a photograph of a young woman, an African mask, an oxygen tank) before sliding across more of the obscure space. The tantalizing vision of scenes like these makes me wish White Material wasn't so dutifully attached to its (admittedly fierce) star. But watching the film a second time, I found that the embers of repression came into better focus between the broad strokes of plotting. Intimations and symbols flash through a dusky storm that doesn't need a name to rumble.

WHITE MATERIAL opens Fri/26 in Bay Area theaters.

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