Three years after Versailles, the French director returns to a Certain Regard with L’Exercice de l’Etat, his second feature film. A film about the exercise of power, against a background of state bankruptcy and the crisis of democracy.
It would seem that in France, the Presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy provokes films about political power. After La Conquête about the rise to power of Nicolas Sarkozy and, more marginally, Pater by Alain Cavalier and Vincent Lindon in the respective roles of President and Prime Minister, L’Exercice de l’Etat by Pierre Schoeller is interested in the exercise of power as such: ministerial responsability and the tensions, power struggles, insomnia involved...
The French Transport Minister (Olivier Gourmet) is woken up in the middle of the night to go to the scene of a coach crash. He goes. He doesn't have the choice. He has to be on the ground, taking the emergency in hand, amid all the hostility. It's a scene of chaos which contrasts with the featherbed calm of the ministerial office in which his chief secretary (Michel Blanc) lives his life. Between them, dialogue becomes difficult.
"Words are the lifeblood of the State," says Pierre Schoeller, who is interested in speech as an instrument of power. Allowing people to be heard who normally are not listened to, is doubtless the guiding thread of Pierre Schoeller's films: the workers in Zero Défaut, a TV film for the channnel Arte, the poor and marginal in Versailles, and this jobless individual (acted by a non-professional like other characters in the film) who finds himself at the forefront of the stage in L’Exercice de l’Etat.
B. de M.
The film is screened on Thursday 19th May at 11am and 4.30pm in the Salle Debussy.