“I don’t want him to have his face”
It starts with sex—violent sex. Out of context you don’t quite know the exact circumstances, but everything makes sense once you hear Zenib’s (Charlotte Bartocci) voice against starkly quiet images of the Parisian hosting center where she resides. Raped and left with a child she’s begun to love, Zenib prays he will look like her so as not to become one more remembrance of an assailant that haunts her dreams. This group of haunted souls that has become her friends helps, providing an escape from the terror even if everyone’s a bit on edge and easily pushed to explode in violent rages themselves. But for the most part they enjoy each other’s company, laughing and even going out for a night of kinetic excitement when the inspiration hits.
By focusing on Zenib, Nora El Hourch‘s Quelques secondes [A Few Seconds] begins as a piece of hopeful optimism—of tragedy turning to promise. Her tale is but one side of the coin, however, and the filmmaker is quick to show the second halfway through via Sam (Marie Tirmont). Unlike her ready-to-pop friend, Sam cannot see a rosy outcome nor hold onto something that could turn the horror she experienced into anything more than a waking nightmare. She’s withdrawn, trapped inside her head, and unable to break free. This is what you imagine when you hear about such heinous acts—a victim scarred, forever lost in the memory of what mankind is capable of doing, and reconciled to mistrusting everyone around her. She and Zenib have gone in opposite directions and neither can be blamed.
The film’s complex with even more characters than these two to show how society and decency has failed. Just look at Jessica (Camille Lellouche) and Gloria’s (Maly Diallo) rage and frustration lashing out at one another, using their tough exteriors for punching bags when the people they’d like to get back at are nowhere to be found. Add Bonhomme’s (Charlotte-Victoire Legrain) desire to mediate and stop the rest from going too far and you have a full-fledged community running the gamut of disparate personalities and demeanors to show how universal abuse is. It doesn’t target the weak, but a complete gender with no exception. Quite literally a few seconds can change you forever—the how is unknown. What’s certain is that the choice between life and death is much closer than you’d expect.
Courtesy of TIFF