Late one night in Tunisia, a girl leaves a party with a man. Sometime later the girl is raped by two police officers whilst the man is robbed by a third officer. What follows is a nail-bitingly tense thriller about the girl trying to find justice in a system that has been designed to humiliate her and protect its own. Kafkaesque bureaucracy and Orwellian interrogation awaits scared young woman, played by Chedly Arfaoui, as it transpires that even those trying to help her have an agenda of their own.
The film uses an interesting conceit, comprising of nine long takes broken up by inter-titles. Each of the eight times the camera cuts we move forward in time through the terrible night. The audience is unable to escape the events of the film or the situations our hero finds herself in. In spite of the formalism of this concept the camera is awarded a fantastic freedom, moving from locked down wide shots to intimate close ups. Lighting and blocking are also able to change flawlessly to ensure the bold visual style of the film is never compromised by the unedited camera work.
The film is tremendously unsettling. The interrogation scenes are relentless. The script feels very well observed, with misogyny seeping in through even the most innocuous dialogue. The hero is afraid throughout that her father will discover what has happened to her and seems more afraid of this than of her attackers. The context of this story, the situation in Tunisia, is constantly influencing the characters and their actions.
Chedly Arfaoui’s character is the highlight of the film. Her performance is at first upsettingly fragile, becoming bolder and more determined as the night wears on. At a crucial moment in the film she wears the veil she has been given by the police as a cape. It’s an important moment for her and a beautiful image of her empowerment.
Very much like Detroit, this terrifying expose of an important injustice is made palatable by the strength of its cinematic technique. This is an excellent crime thriller about a woman who has everything stacked against her and learns that she can only really trust herself.
Paul Salt is the co-host of the podcast One Good Thing.