The Minister

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L’Exercice de l’État

The Minister stands as that rare project that sees past the clichés of politics.” — Peter Debruge, Variety

Year: 2011
Country: France
Running time: 112 mins
Censor Rating: R16 - nudity, content may disturb

Screenplay/Music: Pierre Schœller
Producers: Denis Freyd, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Photography: Julien Hirsch
Editor: Laurence Briaud
Production designer: Jean Marc Tran Tan Ba
Costume designer: Pascaline Chavanne
In French with English subtitles

With: Olivier Gourmet (Bertrand Saint-Jean), Michel Blanc (Gilles), Zabou Breitman (Pauline), Laurent Stocker (Yan), Sylvain Deblé (Martin Kuypers), Didier Bezace (Woessner), Jacques Boudet (Juillet), François Chattot (Falconetti), Arly Jover (Séverine), Gaëtan Vassart (Loïk)

Festivals: Cannes (Un Certain Regard) 2011; New Directors/New Films 2012
Critics’ Prize (Un Certain Regard), Cannes Film Festival 2011

This sleek, charged picture of powerlessness within government transcends the satire or critique of any similar UK or US political thriller. It’s both strenuously realistic and as lurid as the sweat-soaked erotic dream that provides its startling and rudely interrupted opening. Dragged from his bed and whisked by helicopter to a midnight media opportunity at a grisly accident scene, the eponymous Minister exists in a constant turmoil of under-processed over-stimulation. A mildly rash remark about transport unions to a journalist becomes the focus of major attention and sets him up for an equally major backdown.

His media secretary, his aides, his colleagues and his rivals hammer away, telling him what he ought to be, from the colour of his tie to the cut of his labour relations. He lunges for down-with-the-people validation from his taciturn driver. Identities are lost and then flare back into sight in a bewildering whirl of expediency, adrenaline and moral fatigue.

Star Olivier Gourmet, riveting as always, is best known for his work with the Dardenne Brothers (The Son) and this film also bears their imprint as producers, which is to say that it tacitly implies the existence of souls to be lost or redeemed. It may be several steps up the ladder from John Banks’ demented on-air protestations that he was married and therefore not involved with Mr Dotcom, but this plunge into a Minister’s existential fever of random self-perpetuation should strike chords with politician-watchers throughout the world.