Screened as part of NZIFF 2012

The Minister 2011

L’Exercice de l’État

Directed by Pierre Schöller

This sleek, charged picture of ambition, powerlessness and posturing within government transcends the satire or critique of any similar US or UK political thriller: it’s both realistic and utterly surreal. With Olivier Gourmet.

France In French with English subtitles
112 minutes CinemaScope

Director, Screenplay, Music


Denis Freyd
Jean-Pierre Dardenne
Luc Dardenne


Julien Hirsch


Laurence Briaud

Production designer

Jean Marc Tran Tan Ba

Costume designer

Pascaline Chavanne


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)


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.