For the second film in my #31DaysOfHorror I wanted something recent — from something old to something new. Atlantics had been on my Netflix queue for months. I knew it was a ghost story, and that it won the 2019 Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix award. It’s art house, and it’s a romance, but it’s hardly a horror film. It is, however, fascinating.
In Dakar, Senegal, on the westernmost tip of Africa, the Atlantic Ocean constantly pounds the coastline. Ada is in love with Souleiman, who is compelled by his financial situation to leave her in Dakar and set out with his friends on a boat for Spain. Dakar is a tough place to live, and there is a great deal of poverty. The economic reality for Ada is that she has to marry Omar, a wealthy businessman. Ada’s girlfriends are obsessed with money, and they think Ada is crazy for mooning after Souleiman. On her wedding night, the wedding bed catches fire, and one of her friends says she saw Souleiman in the street. That brings the police, and the mystery deepens.
The wealthy exploit the poor, mothers make their daughters marry for money, the police are corrupt, and the mixture of soothing cinematography and slow narrative pace can only partially conceal the film’s burning sense of injustice. It’s a subtle, sensual film — curtains blow in the constant breeze, glass reflects sunlight — but, the camera always returns to the sea. The sea is always there. It’s a comfort, a temptation, and in the end, a bringer of justice.
Letterboxd: Atlantics (2019), dir. Mati Diop