A TRIUMPH, a sacred prison adventure


For his second film, A TRIUMPH, Emmanuel Courcol immerses the spectator in the prison universe to meet the theater.

How much can a benevolent look, an outstretched hand and an instilled hope change the lives of many people? And how can you be sure that they do not first benefit the one who gives this hope? And why not consider that it can also be a “win-win” action? And what if this person is a theater actor and those he accompanies are inmates? These are the very interesting questions that the spectator will be led to ask himself throughout. A TRIUMPH, second feature film after Cease-fire, Emmanuel Courcol, which was inspired by a true story in the 80s in Sweden.


svg%3E - A TRIUMPH, a sacred prison adventure
Credit: Carole Bethuel

Etienne (Kad Merad), actor in galley that no one makes work any more, agreed to lead a theater workshop in prison. He replaces his friend Stéphane (Laurent Stocker), theater director alongside whom he played for a long time. He discovers – and the spectator with him – the prison universe, the codes of the Prison Administration that he does not understand and that he will take pleasure in forcing, or even bypassing. Nabil (Said Benchnafa), Patrick (David Ayala), Jordan (Pierre Lottin, far from his role in The Tuche), Alex (Lamine Cissokho), Moussa (Wabinlé Nabié), to which Kamel will be added (Sofian khammes, revealed in Chouf), want to do sketches more than pure theater.

But Etienne manages to give them desire and confidence, and after a conclusive test, decides to aim higher: it will be nothing less than the play “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel beckett, which he himself played with Stéphane twenty years earlier. A play of the absurd, with a very obscure text for those who are not skilled in the art. A TRIUMPH thus shows the way in which Etienne deploys an incredible energy to obtain daily rehearsals in prison with the director Ariane (Marina hands) and outing permissions for inmates after the judge to allow them to play in the theater of his friend Stéphane.

An original immersion in the prison world, which provides as many thoughts as emotions.

You don’t have to be as convinced as Etienne of the inmates’ acting talents, apart from that of Kamel who seems to excel and to have found his way, for the film to embark the spectator on this beautiful human adventure. The director brilliantly avoids the pitfall of dripping good feelings, as he portrays a man reaching out to a bunch of broken arms, not for the sole purpose of pulling them up, but also for himself. Presented as not very sympathetic (a challenge for Kad Merad, who already plays this type of role in the series Black Baron), Etienne does not hide his pleasure by proxy, with this more than ambitious project that allows him to get his head out of the water and finally return to his visceral desire for the theater through the directing.


svg%3E - A TRIUMPH, a sacred prison adventure
Credit: Carole Bethuel

Emmanuel Courcol and his co-scriptwriters Thierry de Carbonnières and Khaled amara are doing quite well with the rather breakneck theme from theater to cinema. And even if they are a little long, they manage to make the rehearsals digestible, to energize the performances on stage and to raise the tension, judiciously alternating animosity and solidarity between the prisoners made quite endearing. Prisoners of whom we will know almost nothing of their reason in prison, creating a certain frustration for the spectator who cannot see either evolution or redemption on their part.

But the director seems to have taken the party, like his hero Étienne, not to relate precisely to the acts committed by the detainees, not to define them only by them, nor to lock them up there. Etienne persists in fact, rightly or wrongly, in seeing them as actors and not convicts. The director shows very well the relationship of trust that is created between all these men, which allows them to escape thanks to art. Even if we remain a little more circumspect on the final scene, which disturbs and seems very unrealistic and devoid of morality, A TRIUMPH is a film of great originality with a beautiful cast, which provides as many thoughts as emotions.

Sylvie-Noëlle

Readers’ rating44 Ratings


svg%3E - A TRIUMPH, a sacred prison adventure

Original title : A triumph
Production : Emmanuel Courcol
Scenario: Emmanuel Courcol, Thierry de Carbonnières, Khaled Amara
Main actors : Kad Merad, Marina Hands, Sofian Khammes, Laurent Stocker
Release date : January 6, 2021
Duration : 1h35min

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