Directed by Aki Kaurismaki
Cornerhouse, 7 April 2012
It is a magical or maybe more precisely a magic realist film.
Even though set in modern France and featuring topics of current concern (people trafficking, illegal immigration) it is, in essence, a folk tale such as Italo Calvino or Martin Buber might have collected.
A man’s wife is diagnosed with cancer and while we know it is terminal and fatal, he believes it’s benign. He is wholly oblivious to the seriousness of her condition and therefore innocent. His intentions are innocent and pure, that is to say without ulterior motive, when he decides to help an immigrant boy who’s on the run from the police.
The logic of the film, though, is that by doing all he can to arrange passage for one foreign body (the boy), another foreign body (the cancer afflicting his wife) is encouraged on its way. It lets her well alone.
There’s a Hasidic story in one of Buber’s collections which has the same kind of logic; Norman Mailer quotes it in an article he wrote for Village Voice in the ‘60s.
Anyway, Le Havre is a wonderful film withal. It boasts a bounty of beautiful performances, notably from Jean-Pierre Darroussin as a mock-stern police inspector whose heart is in the right place.