If you are patient enough to let the wave of Atlantics‘ unpretty picture smash and wash away like the waves of the Ocean amply characterized in the movie, you are bound to discover a beautiful yet uncommon love story.
Atlantics is the award-winning (Cannes Grand Prix) debut feature-length movie by Franco-Senegalese director Mati Diop. The movie also contends with other world movies for the Academy’s Best International Feature category at the 2020 Oscars. It is the same category that Nigeria’s Lionheart recently got booted out of.
Diop’s Gothic tale opts for depth at the expense of aesthetics, an award-winning decision. Set in Dakar, Atlantics portrays the harsh reality of refugee crisis, poverty, and the mystery of spirits inhabiting human bodies, entwined in a classic tale of star-crossed lovers.
Ada (Mama Sané ) and Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré )’s secret love is cut short when Souleiman joins “the boys” on a voyage to Spain after a construction manager refuses to pay them their wages. Heartbroken, Ada resigns to marrying her fiance, Omar, a rich kid who spoils her with gifts.
Atlantics makes an abrupt and eerie transformation when a mysterious fire engulfs Ada and Omar’s bedroom on their wedding ceremony night. The news that Souleiman has returned from sea sets an already distraught Ada on the edge.
The ghosts of “the boys” drowned at sea inhabit the bodies of the city’s young women and seek revenge on the construction manager.
For Souleiman’s spirit, it’s less about revenge and more about reuniting with Ada. He does this by possessing Issa (Amadou Mbow), a young investigator who takes up the fire incident. During the day, the possessed bodies are weakened by strange and unexplainable ailments and by night, they appear to be zombies walking the empty streets of Dakar on their revenge mission.
I think Diop decides to save the best for last with the penultimate scene. Souleiman is united with Ada and they consummate their love. It’s more than just a sensual scene. It’s a meeting point for the physical and the spiritual and the hallmark of this tragic love story. The reflections revealing Souleiman and Issa simultaneously was genius!
Atlantics makes a mockery of Romeo and Juliet‘s resolution.
Simplicity is the primary principle of Atlantics. It spreads across every angle of its production from props to costume and even cinematography. It does everything but entices you to see it. If you stick around long enough, I guarantee its not a bad watch.