“DNA”, a moving quest for origins

October 27, 2020 by No Comments

DNA ***

by Maïwenn

French film, 1 h 30

Maïwenn doesn’t like people saying that her film is autobiographical. Too reductive, according to her, with regard to the work of fiction – she co-wrote the film with Mathieu Demy – which she has been trying to build ever since Polishes. Yet it is difficult not to see in Neige, the heroine ofDNA, a double of the director who has accustomed us since her first feature film Excuse me (2011), to make his emotions and his skin-deep sensitivity the subject matter of his fictions.

Like her character, whom she interprets herself, Maïwenn lost a few years ago a grandfather whom she adored and immersed herself in her Algerian roots in a quasi-obsessive way, to the point of making a DNA test to determine the share of her North African origins and to ask for the nationality of a country where she had hardly ever set foot before.

Yes DNA from this point of view is undoubtedly his most personal film, it touches on questions – mourning, sorrow, filiation, origins – which can find an echo in any of us. And in a country crossed by questions of identity, takes on a very special dimension by questioning the notions of transmission and belonging.

A family and emotional tsunami

I would like spectators to ask themselves: What did my parents transmit to me and what do I want to transmit in turn? explains the director. How does the story of our origins reflect in our daily life? What does it mean to be from such and such a country? What does it go through? knowledge of history, practice of the language? This is all that I wanted to question in the film. “

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Neige, a divorced mother of three, goes through a real family and emotional tsunami after the death of Emir, her 93-year-old Algerian grandfather to whom she was very close. Not only because this former communist activist, who fought alongside the FLN, was the backbone of a fairly dysfunctional family. But also because her disappearance leads the young woman to wonder about the part that survives in her of this admired man and his story.

Overwhelmed by grief, in the face of hostility from those around her, she embarks on a liberating identity quest that will lead her to reconcile with herself and set foot on Algerian soil for the first time.

A unique way to capture the truth of his characters

As always with Maïwenn, who leaves a large part to improvisation in his direction of actors, the most successful scenes are choral. When the family is gathered to celebrate Emir’s birthday in his retirement home, just before his death, then at the funeral, when all the unspoken and past tensions re-emerge between its members.

Everyone plays their score perfectly, from Fanny Ardant as a theatrical and toxic mother to Dylan Robert (Scheherazade), young cousin rapper a little lost, passing by Alain Françon, the absent father and castrator, or Louis Garrel, always excellent, in the role of the comforting former companion who connects the jokes to try to relax the atmosphere.

The film is not free from flaws, especially in a last part – the return to Algeria – unfortunately less successful. But the director with her excesses, her pretty much, the feeling that she always gives to experiment, has her own way of capturing the truth of her characters. And manages to maintain himself throughout the film on a fragile ridge line, oscillating between laughter and tears.

A liberating laugh when it comes to confronting the absurdity of the steps imposed by the organization of the funeral – like this anthology scene on the choice of the coffin – and tears of despair in the face of the emptiness of loss, which causes a deep depression in her heroine. On a tenuous scenario, surrounded by a troop of formidable actors, Maïwenn once again manages to capsize us with this funny and moving quest for oneself.


Maïwenn, actress and director

April 17, 1976. Birth of Maïwenn Le Besco known as Maïwenn, in Les Lilas (Seine-Saint-Denis), of a Franco-Algerian mother and a Breton father of Vietnamese origin.

nineteen eighty one. First screen appearance, child, in Next year … if all goes well by Jean-Loup Hubert, then in 1983 in Deadly summer by Jean Becker.

1991. Meets Luc Besson and moves away from the movie sets.

2003. Performer, at the Café de la Gare in Paris, an autobiographical show Chickpea.

2006. Release of his first feature film, Excuse me.

2009. The actresses’ ball.

2011. Polishes, jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

2015. My king, Best Actress Award in Cannes for Emmanuelle Bercot.


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