“Les Amandiers” and the Sofiane Bennacer affair, “an incredible mise en abyme between film and reality”

Iit is difficult to go and see The Almond Trees without thinking about the affair which, for a few days, has been putting the film in turmoil. To its main actor, Sofiane Bennacer, accused of rape and violence by former companions. To the filmmaker Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, who supports him. To the other actors, who are rather discreet at the moment. To producers denying having covered what some call a “scandal”. To all those who denounce the young actor. Everyone has their own truth.

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The Almond Trees shows a group of young people, in the 1980s, learning the profession of actor – life too – in a school attached to the legendary Théâtre des Amandiers, in Nanterre, directed by the no less legendary Patrice Chéreau. Let us see the incredible mise en abyme that plays out in this drama. Between film and reality. Between eras, between actors and their double on screen.

In real life, Sofiane Bennacer, 25, is accused of having committed rapes in 2018 and 2019, while studying theater in Mulhouse (Haut-Rhin) and Strasbourg. In the film, he plays one of the young people from Les Amandiers, but with an outsider profile: he speaks with a strong suburban accent, lives on the fringes, takes drugs, is violent and jealous, gets carried away quickly. His lover, also at Les Amandiers, is alerted by his girlfriends – he is dangerous.

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After the revelation of his indictment for rape, by The Parisianon November 23, Sofiane Bennacer, originally from a working-class family in Marseille, published a press release on Instagram in which, while claiming his innocence, he pushes the card of the excluded who does not have the keys to notability . “I was made to understand that my place was not in this environment. » He even received racist messages, he wrote.

A symbol of failure

In a cultural world that has the greatest difficulty in involving the working classes – on stage and in the public –, where art schools seek diversity, this case sounds like a symbol of failure. Whatever the legal consequences, Sofiane Bennacer is already condemned socially and it is likely that we will not see him on the screen anytime soon. While his name has been removed from the Césars 2023, Release closed the debate, on November 26, by illustrating its “front page” accompanying a decisive, detailed and contradictory investigation into the “Bennacer case” a photo of the actor sporting bulging eyes and bloody predatory fingers.

Another mise en abyme, The Almond Trees is a film that celebrates the theater, but it is in the theater that we attacked the film. Voices in the movement of the #metothéâtre collective have denounced a shoot where “we knew”. The paradox is that the producers of almond trees, doubtless bruised but sure of their good faith, embody French auteur cinema, with the added bonus of a reputation for humanism and ethics. And no doubt, in a French cinema already in poor shape, the wound will take time to heal.

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