Film Reviews
Photo courtesy of Cohen Media Group

By Diane Carson

In cinema or books, adopting a disguise, a fake persona, to learn about a different race’s or social class’s experiential reality is not new. Perhaps the many iterations speak to the quite fascinating fantasy of stepping out of our own world into another. French director Emmanuel Carrère adopts this idea with full immersion in “Between Two Worlds.”

Adapted from Florence Aubenas’  2010 nonfiction book “The Night Cleaner,” Carrère immediately establishes author Marianne Winckler in disguise as a cleaning woman, euphemistically called a ‘maintenance agent.’ Marianne adopts this deceptive persona to grasp accurately and viscerally working class conditions and humiliating exploitation. The film viewer is quite aware of this ruse, with Marianne’s occasional voiceover expressing her thoughts on these hard-working, largely invisible women. However, none of her colleagues know Marianne’s real identity or about her subterfuge.

In writing the screenplay, enhancing the film’s appeal, Carrère wisely decided to focus on one individual, Christèle, representing this labor exhaustive, resourceful group unsupported by governmental bureaucracy. Predictably, she will discover Marianne’s real identity as a writer gathering authentic information as events develop. Nevertheless, what Marianne experiences, has profound impact on her, and on viewers as well, given the insiders’ look at the physical and emotional toll of this work, especially on a ferry. As Marianne, Juliette Binoche shoulders this demanding, central role and also spearheaded the project. She communicates superbly the emotional bond and camaraderie of the group, with quite different personalities expressed, and with Christèle in particular. Both Marianne and Christèle will have to cope with the intimacy and painful feelings of betrayal.

Astonishing as it is, aside from Binoche, the entire supporting cast is composed of nonprofessional actors, two (Nadège and Justine) from the original book. Cinematographer Patrick Blossier adds a documentary feel with unintrusive camerawork complemented by the art direction which captured the poetry of hard work. In French with English subtitles, “Between Two Worlds” screens at the Hi-Pointe Backlot from Friday, September 1 through Thursday, September 7 and at Landmark’s Plaza Frontenac Cinema. Check listings.

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