Animale (2024) CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | Critics’ Week 2024

May 22nd, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Emma Benestan | France, Fantasy thriller 101′

Experience the dizzying bull run at Saints-Maries-de-la-Mer in the Camargue and you’ll understand the sheer terror pulsating through the crowd when the bulls are released from the arena to run wild through the streets, commandeered only by a group of bareback riders.

After training at La Femis in Paris, Algerian filmmaker Emma Benestan honed her craft as assistant editor on the 2013 Palme d’Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Colour. And her feature debut, a neon-tinged neo western, captures the rush of adrenaline and fizzing energy of the bull run fusing it into a surreal bovine thriller that joins the sub-genre of women triumphing in a male dominated ‘world’. Conceived as a supernatural fable Animale blends classic body horror with a potent revenge piece imbued with the spirit of Palme d’Or winner Titane ,The Eagle Huntress and Zahori all rolled into one dynamic piece of filmmaking.

In a cast of newcomers and established actors, breakout talent Oulaya Amamra plays Nejma, a 22-year-old woman keen to make her mark in the macho bullfighting corrida, and to this endeavour trains fearlessly in the bullring and afterwards endures a night of heavy drinking with the boys. Waking the following morning Nejma suffers more than just a post-binge hangover. Her whole body feels strangely transformed. Then comes that news that some of the experienced guys have been found dead, and a rogue bull is on the loose.

The struggle with the bulls come to represent Nejma’s battle to be accepted as a woman, albeit a tough one. The bulls can be fierce and frightening when riled but they are also creatures capable of a certain sensitivity, and strangely seem to empathise with their female trainer. Nejma’s own feminine quality is seen in the bulls’ latent soulfulness that DoP Ruben Impens captures again and again in their frightened gaze. Animale is a novel and atmospheric feature that marks Benestan out as a talented auteur. @MeredithTaylor




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