De Roller (Benoit Magimel) – High Commissioner of the Republic in French Polynesia. Able to negotiate anything with both locals and high-profile tourists, he enjoys playing the role of the best friend of everyone. It seemed that De Roller arranged an ideal life for himself and all his acquaintances, but paradise cracks when the military arrives on the islands. Rumors begin to spread everywhere that nuclear tests will soon take place somewhere nearby, and although there is no confirmation of the information, there are no denials either. So fear spreads across the once carefree tropics.
With Pacifiction, Albert Serra continues the line of The Story of My Death and The Death of Louis XIV. Although this time the director turns to the present, his High Commissioner De Roller is the flesh of the flesh of Casanova from “History” and Ludovica from “Death” – a sybarite enjoying luxury at the end of his life with implicit merits in the past, thanks to which he has grown to his current privileged position , a sort of Woland retired. This is probably the most significant role of Benoît Magimel, the conservatory student from Haneke’s The Pianist. Once talented and ambitious, now provided with everything, but mired in optional roles, he wins back almost himself. And although the performers of the main roles from previous films Seurat, Jean-Pierre Leo or Helmut Berger, if they were 10 years younger, would have looked more appropriate in the place of Magimel-Roller, in fact this only confirms the continuity of the paintings.
The High Commissioner is smiling, eloquent, he is trying to at least agree on something with the military in general, and with the admiral in particular, and with local residents who are worried about the arrival of uninvited guests. Not that it was completely unsuccessful, but the negotiations do not bring significant results either. And the more often phrases like “nothing will happen” and “everything will be fine, I promise you” sound, the clearer it becomes that something will definitely happen and that nothing will be good, but it will be very bad. But this is a view from the outside, the audience, but from the inside: well, what nuclear tests, what bombs, what explosions? Here is the sea, beach, palm trees.
In hindsight, “Pacifiction” can easily be mistaken for a warning, but where is Albert Serra and where are the momentary pamphlets? It has always been more interesting for a living classic of “slow cinema” to turn the action into a play of shadows, into a poem, into a feeling, and in recent films – into a premonition of imminent death. In “Pacifiction” is no longer personal, but the general death of the whole world. Like all decent people, Serra does not predict anything and does not warn against anything, he only shares his feelings.
In the English-language media field, the film was given a different name – Pacifiction. On the one hand, it looks like a misspelled word “pacification” (pacification), on the other, a linguistic cadavers from pacific and fiction, where the first word means “great” (in English-speaking countries, the Pacific Ocean is called the Great), and the second is “fiction” . Somewhere between peace, silence, torment, as well as greatness and fiction, it is probably worth looking for additional meanings of the picture. And here, too, you can fall into the trap of ambiguity, on the one hand, as in any real work of art, you can delve into the “Torment” for as long as you like and each time look for something new. On the other hand, Serra in his work has always been quite frank and alien to metaphors, in his films only what the viewer sees on the screen happens, whether it is the death of Louis XIV or the wanderings of the Magi in the desert.
Nevertheless, individual scenes still allow you to unfold in the mind a vast field of associations and references. The most revealing example: De Roller, storming the waves on a jet ski, is somewhat subtly reminiscent of Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore from Apocalypse Now, who intends to surf on a Vietnamese beach. And although this similarity remains only at the level of vague sensations, the whole Pacifiction can be perceived as a premonition of Apocalypse Now, the question is whether it is necessary.
Albert Serra made a traditionally unbearable movie on his already on-duty topic, but, unfortunately, in 2022 it may not respond the way the author probably intended. In the shadows, reflections and barely audible rhymes, one can already see and hear something too creepy, fear conquers both beauty and boredom and overwhelms everything around.