Mati Diop

7.3 Atlantique (2019) Links:

Mati Diop (France, 1982), of Senegalese descent and originally an actress, made several shorts before Atlantique/ Atlantics (2019), a mix of Italian neorealism, sociological documentary, horror movie and love story, with plenty of pathos and suspense. Workers at a construction site complain that they haven't been paid in three months. The staff tells them that the boss, NDiaye, is out on a business trip and hasn't left any money to pay them. They have almost finished building a modernist skyscraper outside the capital by the sea. The workers complain that they are amassing debts and need to feed their families. At the end of the day they board a truck that drives them to the city. Souleiman is silent, the others sing. He meets with his girl, Ada. They sit in an abandoned house and make out until the owner comes to kick them out. He gives her his necklace. Ada walks to her best friend Mariama's place. Mariama reminds her that she is getting married in ten days with another man, Omar. Mariama is religious and believes that Allah is testing her. Mariama calls "sluts" the Westernized girls with whom Ada is hanging out. Ada picks up the bridal dress. At home she is told to call Omar who is leaving for a trip. She calls him but is cold on the phone and her mother scolds her for not sounding sweet to her future husband. At night she jumps out of the window and meets three girls wearing miniskirts. They head to a bar full of single girls. There are no men. The bartender Dior tells Ada that Souleiman and his friends have left on a boat. They kept it secret and many girls are in tears. We overhear the bartender mention that the men are headed for Spain. Ada, in shock, sleeps on a chair of the bar and walks back home only at dawn. She lights a candle and prays. Ada is worried that some day the fishermen will fish Souleiman's dead body. When a strong wind sweeps the sea, she stares silently at the sea. Omar is a wealthy Westernized man. Back from his business trip, he gives her a smartphone. She hardly thanks him. Finally the night of the wedding comes. Women gather, dressed in traditional costumes, and sing and clap, waiting for the bride. After the ceremony Ada shows her girlfriends her new gorgeous house: they are impressed. But she is grumpy. Ada tells them that she will never love Omar. Her friend Fanta tells her that it is not important, especially since Omar spends 9 months out of 12 in Italy. Her friend Dior sympathyzes with her sorrow but reminds her what the alternative is: being expelled from her own family. Mariama, who hates these Westernized girls, interrupts them and tells Ada that she has just seen Souleiman. Ada doesn't believe her but they don't have time to discuss because smoke comes out of the bedroom: somehow the bed caught fire. Issa Diop, a young detective, is assigned to investigate the mysterious fire that ruined the wedding bed. Mariama has told the police that she saw Souleiman around the house, and Issa begins by searching Souleiman's room. Souleiman's mother does not believe that he is in town but cannot prove it. Issa finds that on the wall behind Souleiman's bed he wrote "A+S" inside a heart, and correctly concludes that they are lovers. Issa interrogates Ada at the police station and accuses her of complicity. Issa has a health problem: he faints every now and then. Suddenly he feels weak and he abruptly ends the interview and tries to walk home, staggering and gasping along the way. Fanta and Mariama also fall mysteriously sick. At night several girls, simultaneously, start walking like zombies towards the beach, their eyes completely white. Among them are Fanta and Mariama. When the boss of the construction company, NDiaye, enters his luxurious house with his wife, he finds them in his living room, waiting for him. They demand to be paid as if they were the workers who left. He refuses. They live but promise to be back. When Mariama wakes up, she's scared to find sand on her legs. Meanwhile, Omar's parents demand that Ada takes a virginity test. After the test, the nurse congratulates her mother: Ada is a virgin. Issa is recovering at the hospital but sees Ada passing by and follows her. Ada calls Dior, who is with Fanta, listening to Fanta describe how she was possessed by a spirit at night. Dior meets Ada in a cafe. Ada has found a text message from Souleiman asking her to meet him at Dior's bar that night. Ada begs Dior to give her the keys of the bar. Dior thinks it's a trap by the police but Ada insists. As they walk out, Issa shows up and harasses Ada. As Ada refuses to cooperate, Issa arrests her. However, Issa is informed by the Spanish coast guarad that Souleiman's boat capsized and there were no survivors. Issa's boss tells him that he has two complains: one is Omar, who wants Ada released immediately, and the other one from NDiaye, who wants a patrol to make sure women don't break in again. Omar is waiting for her outside but she leaves him after telling him that she doesn't love him and doesn't consider him her husband. She walks home alone. Along the way she sells the phone that Omar gave her. Meanwhile, Mariama is missing. She shows up, with zombie eyes, in NDiaye's bedroom. She gives him an ultimatum: deliver the money the following night or they will burn down the skyscraper. Then she calmly leaves and joins the other zombie-eyed girls outside, staring at a fire that erupts at NDiaye's villa. Later the same night, Ada walks to the appointment with Souleiman but the man who shows up is the detective, Issa. Issa, however, has the zombie eyes of the sleepwalking girls and claims to be Souleiman. Ada doesn't believe him and runs away, but Dior tells her that the men are back: the girls assemble in the bar behaving like men. The spirits of the dead man have possessed their bodies. One of them tells Ada how they died. The following morning Issa, who doesn't remember anything, continues the investigation. Watching a video of the wedding, he realizes that he was there, with zombie eyes. We realize that Issa, possessed by Souleiman's spirit, is the one who set fire to Omar's bed. Terrified, he drives home and handcuffs himself to a door: his eyes are turning white. That night the girls walk to the appointment with NDiaye and he pays them. Now they have another request: they want him to dig their graves. He obeys. Meanwhile, Ada is waiting in the bar for another appearance of Souleiman in Issa's body. He comes, they make love and she loses her virginity. They exchange poetic lines as the sun rises. Issa wakes up naked next to Ada and leaves. Meanwhile, Fanta's mother finds a trail of banknotes leading to Fanta's bed. Issa returns to the police station and closes the case.
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