Cinema: A Prophet, language is power
1 March 2010
Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet has swept the board at France’s Césars, and looks set to win the Oscar for best foreign language film. One of its lessons is that in a fast-paced globalised world, the future belongs to those who can master two, or even three, languages.
Director Jacques Audiard has always been great at gauging the pace on the street and slipping into the dip and swerve of contemporary life to generate maximum zeitgeisty white noise in his films. Where he really nails it in his new film A Prophet is with language: its polyglot swirls of French, Arabic and Corsican might give subtitlers the sweats, but feel like a very attuned reflection of multicultural chaos, the exhilarating tangle of tongues that makes up social and business life in most global capitals now.
English is still the dominant language, of course, in the cinema as much as anywhere else. But what's artistically exciting is the growing sense that English is no longer synonymous with the dominant reality; that it's in dynamic competition with other languages, and by implication other perspectives. We're finally seeing the resulting collisions and confusions unfold even in popcorn cinema, which used to be to foreign languages what Agent Orange was to Vietnamese horticulture.
Linguistically speaking, Slumdog Millionaire wasn't revolutionary, but what was remarkable was that a film one-third in Hindi picked up so many Oscars. Quentin Tarantino – always a man with a sharp ear – took things one stage further in the summer. Inglourious Basterds' arch-linguist Colonel Hans Landa theatrically juggled English, French and his liebe Muttersprache like an SS music-hall compere. Even Hitler's rank-and-file grunts had progressed to comprehending orders in German – something which seems to have been beyond movie Nazis even relatively recently (like in the embarrassing Valkyrie). Tarantino knows that it is a multilingual world we live in now – virtually the only cutting-edge thing about his film. Read full article in the Guardian...