Friday, November 16, 2012

38 witnesses - Review of a film by Lucas Belvaux

38 witnesses is a French movie based on Didier Decoin's novel on the murder of Ketty Genovese in 1964. It portrays faithfully the concept of Genovese syndrome or Bystander effect that basically states that in an emergency the probability that a bystander will provide help is inversely proportional to their numbers. There were apparently 38 people in the neighborhood who were aware partly or wholly that Ketty Genovese was getting murdered at 3 a.m in the night but nobody had come forward to take any responsibility to provide help. I guess the bystander effect will have an impact in a society  where human lives are valued . In India it's unnatural if every such emergency doesn't display the same effect because dying homeless people , accident victims here remain unattended   both by the bystanders and by the authorities whether they are the police or the hospital doctors.

38 witnesses is set in Le Havre, a French port where a murder of a 20 year old screaming woman in the dead of the night bring forward absolutely no one in the neighborhood who can testify as witnesses till a ship-pilot ,Pierre(played by Yvan Attal)  can no longer bear the dilemma  of carrying on with the burden of lie to his fiancee Louise (played by Sophie Quinton) and testifies with the authorities  knowing fully well that their relationship may suffer because of  his act. The authorities having had no lead on the murder so far decide to ignore Pierre's testimony since the District Attorney fears that a media-led trial on the 38 witnesses will rock them as well as the society besides the humongous work on prosecuting 38 people. But a leak from inside alerts the investigative reporter Sylvie(played by Nicole Garcia) and she publishes the article on the collective callousness & cowardice of 38 people. This changes the lives of Pierre and Louise forever.
Lucas Belvaux, the director has made 5 films before including a famed trilogy. Hence his story telling doesn't have any pretenses or exaggeration. The cinematography is nice since almost a quarter of the movie shows the dock & the blue sea although I'm not sure why repeated shots of container cranes moving up and down the docks filled up the movie excepting probably to show Pierre's escape into a noisy world in the day. The performances by the cast are authentic and restrained and the director remains non-judgmental on the correlation between selfishness and cowardice in an increasingly commerce-driven society.I am now convinced that DG Beta cameras have an associated problem with brightness since this is the 3rd movie that is showing up as less bright. The sound is mediocre throughout the movie . Overall the movie is fine. Its excellent in parts specially the crime-reenactment scene as well as the conflict between Sylvie and Louise.

JAS rating : 5 out of 10 

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