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Consensus: An awkward Gabriel Matzneff biopic we didn’t need

This Tuesday 30 April Canal+ will broadcast Le Consentoment at 9.10pm. The opportunity to return to a film that had greatly disturbed us, re-proposing the perversity of Gabriel Matzneff to the point of having the air of a biographical film.

We’ve been waiting for it for two years. The big screen adaptation of Consent, an extraordinary work by Vanessa Springora, was released in theaters on October 11th. In this first-person account, the author recounted the controlling relationship Gabriel Matzneff suffered in the 1980s, when she was 14 and he was 50. Beyond the critical success, the book led to the establishment of Billon law of April 2021, which provides that under the age of 15, any minor is considered non-consenting.

Worn by Jean-Paul Rouve (Gabriel Matzneff), Kim Higelin (Vanessa Springora) and Laetitia Casta (Vanessa Springora’s mother), Consent it is made by Vanessa Filho. The director worked with Vanessa Springora, who participated in writing the screenplay.

However, this adaptation raises questions. Should we reproduce the rape of a child on screen, in detail and detail, to “expose” child crime? Consent was it supposed to become a film?

An autonomous “cinematic work”?

Consent it doesn’t open with images, but with words. On a black screen, text warns us that the film is an adaptation of the Springora book, but that some elements have been modified OR added for purposes cinematic ».

The film hasn’t started yet, but it already raises questions: Consent can truly aspire to become a cinematographic work independent? A film that we would appreciate for the originality of the screenplay, the performances of the actors, the intensity of the dramatic scenes?

Nothing is less safe. Resurrecting the crimes of a pedophile very real with a camera, ask the actors to play the ordeal unspeakable of a young victim who is not fictitious ; all of this raises questions of staging that we cannot ignore, at the risk of creating a problematic film…and that is exactly what is happening with this adaptation attempt.

A disembodied acting performance, which empties the Consensus of its substance

Daughter of Kên Higelin, granddaughter of Jacques Higelin and granddaughter of Izïa Higelin, Kim Higelin signs her first role in a feature film here. The question isn’t so much whether the 23-year-old actress acts well or not: the problem is that she shows off immediately what she had been ordered to do a shocking performance that earned her a César for Women’s Hope. During the scenes we almost have the impression of hearing the director whisper to him: “Touch your face like in a music video, really bite your nose, blink first with your right eye then with your left when you look at Jean-Paul so you can feel that he’s bothering you. » In short, we fall right into it an excessive game that is hard to believe.

Kim Higelin in consensus // Source: Pan Distribution
Kim Higelin in consensus

Let’s return to this question “the cinematographic work”. The challenge of this adaptation should not be to create the perfect candidate for the Césars, but to ask how truly embody The Springora book.

If his book is a success, it is not only because it shocks by describing the attacks of pedophiles, but because it is a deeply profound book embodied, inhabited by the voice, by the gaze, by the experience of Vanessa Springora. We should have asked ourselves how to recreate, with actors, images, sounds, editing, what Springora has accomplished with writing.


A “French intimate drama”, the opposite of a personal but above all political book

For example, in the film, many scenes show Kim Higelin yelling at her mother (Laetitia Casta). They exchange invectives that we’ve already seen too many times at the movies, like “If you continue to deprive me of seeing him, I will run away”OR, “You’re jealous anyway because I am young and you are old”, etc. The character written by Vanessa Filho is too stereotype. Laetita Casta hangs out all day in her nightgown, with a glass of red wine in her hand. She is smoking, with her hair in her eyes, slumped on the sofa, her gaze dull. The film may last two hours, but it never gives more than that four minutes of screen time. In the end we know almost nothing about this character.

Kim Higelin and Laetita Casta // Source: Pan Distribution
Kim Higelin and Laetita Casta // Source: Pan Distribution

So how can we understand his crazy behavior? How can you first ban your daughter from dating a pedophile and then ask her not to leave him? “because he’s nice” ? Why does he protect Gabriel Matzneff?

Limiting scenes with mother to domestic quarrelsbringing the film back into the register of “Intimate French drama” the film fails to capture the eminently political dimension of this character. Speaking about her mother, Vanessa Springora didn’t just talk about her privacy, but a whole system of secrecy and protection of pedophiles. Her mother is silent, like everyone else.

A great actor and atrocious reconstruction scenes, for a biopic on Gabriel Matzneff

If the mother is all but written out of the story and Kim Higelin is busy overacting, what’s left? Consent ? The answer is simple and visible from the film poster: the film serves to demonstrate it Jean-Paul Rouve is an actor of 1000 hats. Beyond his mesmerizing physical transformation, we must see how the actor has in his eyes an atrocious mixture of simulated sweetness and desire of a hungry beast.

Jean Paul rediscovers consensus // Source: Pan Distribution
Jean Paul reopens the consensus

The one we associated with the cute Jeff Tuche probably signs his most important role, the biggest counter-occupation (this concept designates a role that changes from an actor’s usual register). In front of Vanessa Filho’s camera, everything is done so that we can see how Jean-Paul Rouve plays well.

Therefore, the vast majority of scenes in the film show Extremely long and detailed rape sequences, showing the extent of Matzneff’s perversity, from his sexual practices to the atrocious words he whispers in his victim’s ear. The problem is that in the best actor game, Jean-Paul Rouve inevitably crushes Kim Higelin. Since he is directing the film, Consent it looks much more like a biopic of Matzneff than an attempt to experience in images the hell of control and juvenile crime.

Consensus: A masterclass in cinema’s worst trauma porn

The problematic dimensions of Consent by Vanessa Filho raise the question traumatic porn. We are talking about traumatic porn when a film shows acts of violence in detail under the pretext of denouncing them, but in reality falls into it exhibitionism and sensationalism AND shock to entertain. In particular, we can ask ourselves whether a person who has been a victim of this violence really needs to see again his trauma was played out on screen to heal. There really are people who “they will become aware of the problem of pedophilia” seeing Matzneff’s rapes reproduced on screen in great detail ?

Jean-Paul Rouve and Kim Higelin // Source: Pan Distribution
Source: Pan distribution

Fascinated by Jean-Paul Rouve in Gabriel Matzneff, Consent East his biopic, as if his perversity deserved a feature film for him. The film can’t think the systemic dimension of juvenile crime. We get lost embarrassing reenactment scenes instead of saying what social, cultural, economic power of powerful men Product such as violence and impunity against women, young people, children.


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Source: Madmoizelle

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