Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Mathieu Denis & Simon Lavoie.
Written by: Mathieu Denis & Simon Lavoie.
Starring: Charlotte Aubin (Giutizia), Laurent Bélanger (Tumulto), Emmanuelle Lussier Martinez (Ordine Nuovo), Gabrielle Tremblay (Klas Batalo).
Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves is a monster of a title, but it fits the movie itself, and it’s more than three hour runtime. This film from Quebec takes the 2012 so called Maple Uprising – where students in Quebec took to the streets to protest tuition hikes – as it’s jumping off point, and then envisions a lonely little group of four of those students, who keep right on protesting when everyone else stops. Written and directed by Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie, the film sees its lonely group in a clearer way than they see themselves – the film both respects them for their idealism, but sees the various holes in their philosophy, and their basically shallow and immature behavior. Basically, it sees its four main characters as people who reject society, but don’t really know what to do next – they sit around in a dark, dank factory turned living space, and spew their ideals to each other. They make no money, other than what one of their group Klas Batalo (Gabrielle Tremblay) – makes as a transgender prostitute (the others, apparently feeling no guilt about what she does to support the rest of them.
The obvious model for this film comes from Godard in the 1960s in films like La Chinoise with his “children of Marx and Coca Cola”. The film mixes in real footage of those 2012 protests with what happens next. The characters are energized when they are a part of the movement- even if, its clear early on that they are outside of that movement a little bit, more extreme – most of the protestors have an endpoint in mind, whereas these four want to keep going. But what do you do when you want to protest and everyone else has moved on?
The film is far from perfect. It is way too long, and repetitive throughout – although, I do think that’s part of the point of the film. I do think the filmmakers are trying to have it both ways – both admiring their youthful idealism, and poking fun of it (the best example of this is an early sex scene between two of the group – but once it starts to really get involved, one stops the other – its selfish to think of their own sexual desires, when revolution is needed. Later, various members of the group will get in trouble – and face harsh punishment, either by their own hands, or the hands of others – for “nostalgia”.
The film is largely plotless – the three hour runtime doesn’t help that – and for the most part, the characters are not particularly well defined. I do think you get to see a little bit inside of Gabrielle Tremblay’s character the most – a long scene with one of her clients in perhaps the best in the movie – but the rest kind of blend together. Again, that could easily be the point – that they have become so committed to their cause, that they’ve lost their own identities, sacrificing all to the group. It’s a fascinating film, not an altogether successful one, but one that I do find myself returning to in my mind in the week since I’ve seen it.