THOSE WHO MAKE REVOLUTION HALFWAY
ONLY DIG THEIR OWN GRAVES
"Epic," is an understatement when it comes to the undertaking of the three-hour, multi-aspect ratio, deftly edited, and boldly titled Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves. A collaboration between Québécois filmmakers Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie, Those Who Make Revolution utilizes the events of the 2012 Quebec student protests as a jumping point for a far more radical story.
Split into two halves, the film features a classical overture (Alan Hovhaness' "Requiem & Resurrection"), a starling black metal interlude (Burzum's "Ea, Lord of the Depths), and shifting aspect ratios (2.35:1 to 1.33:1). Beginning at the end of the student protests, Denis and Lavoie opt to chart the radicalization of four youths rather than retelling tales. In fact, within the eventual cell that the four create, nostalgia is considered a crime. However, meshing found footage and many other texts to create the foundation of their film, Denis and Lavoie seem unable to produce their vision without the past. Thus, the filmmakers are guilty of the very treason their protagonists so swiftly act against, which becomes a recurring theme throughout.
At first committing low level offenses of disruption, such as setting off a smoke bomb in a subway station or spray painting billboards, the group of four: Giutizia (Charlotte Aubin), Tumulto (Laurent Bélanger), Ordine Nuovo (Emmanuelle Lussier Martinez), and Klas Batalo (Gabrielle Tremblay), eventually yearn for more anarchy. Much like its characters, the narrative refuses to pay respect to any formal conventions, with the audience witnessing the growth of each revolutionary through flashbacks, brief introspective segments, and performance pieces. While it is often said, Those Who Make Revolution is a film that plays with such range, that it is unlike any other work. However, that does not mean it is without influences.
In tone, Those Who Make Revolution is similar to last year's Nocturama, another bold take on youth revolution and radicalism. Elongated scenes of wandering and photography that constricts its viewer, Denis and Lavoie rarely allow for a relaxing moment. The overture is thunderous and foreboding, while the interlude - typically a brief resting period - is raspy screams over blast beats by none other than church arsonist, murderer, and avowed white supremacist, Varg Vikernes. Another instance where the film's content is in direct opposition with its characters' supposed values and beliefs, or is Vikernes just another tale of misled radicalism?
With a Godardian aesthetic, on-screen text from figures such as Lionel Groulx, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Aimé Césaire, and Rosa Luxembourg (as well many others), constantly interrupts quiet moments with prophetic and powerful statements. Controversial as it refuses to neither condone nor condemn its figures, Those Who Make Revolution is Godard's La chinoise by way of Bonello's Nocturama and Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.
The performances by the quartet, Tremblay especially, are top form. Incredibly passionate and courageous as they are nearly always in the nude, the cast laments their frustrations and confesses their own shortcomings in searing monologues, with the notions of absolute freedom or severe vulnerability flip flopping scene-to-scene. With all of the aforementioned in consideration, this purposeful emotional, narrative, sonic, and photographic dissonance makes Those Who Make Revolution a challenging viewing in the best way.
Ultimately, Denis and Lavoie have constructed a film that refuses to adhere to any genre, convention, and/or belief long enough to be pinned down as one or the other. It is an ever fighting and destructive symphony of radical thought, verse, imagery, and sound that signals the arrival of a modern day political epic.
"For we who do not believe in God, it is either justice for all or utter despair."