Review: Presume coupeable (2011)


Presume coupeable (2011)

Directed by: Vincent Garenq | 96 minutes | drama | Actors: Philippe Torreton, Wladimir Yordanoff, Noémie Lvovsky, Raphaël Ferret

Then French President Jacques Chirac called it a “judicial disaster”. The Outreau affair has been puzzling in France for years. In November 2001, a network of pedophiles was broken up in Outreau, a suburb of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Eighteen people, mostly parents of young children, were charged. Wrongly, it turned out afterwards, when it became known during the appeal that the main witness, Myriam Badaoui, had lied about the involvement of thirteen other suspects. Most of them she didn’t even know. The thirteen innocents had already been incarcerated for three years; one of them had even committed suicide in prison. The Outreau affair caused quite a stir. The inexperienced prosecutor Fabrice Burgaud, in particular, got a kick out of it, as did the experts, who placed too much value on children’s testimonies. Prime Minister De Villepin and President Chirac personally apologized to the innocent convicts. The memoir of one of those wrongly convicted residents of Outreau, bailiff Alain Marécaux, was filmed in 2011 as ‘Présumé coupable’. The film tells the story from the point of view of an innocent man, whose freedom is taken away from him and who sees his family fall apart, without being able to do anything about it.

Marécaux is played in a sublime way by Philippe Torreton. From one day to the next, he becomes entangled in a web of false testimonies and legal blunders. His wife Edith (Noemie Lvovsky) is also convicted of involvement in the case. Marécaux is supported by lawyer Hubert Delarue (Vladimir Yordanoff), who keeps filing an appeal, but as long as the young inflexible prosecutor Burgaud (Raphael Ferret) stands his ground, he has no leg to stand on. Marécaux slowly goes under and after yet another rejection ends up in the psychiatric wing of the prison. Out of sheer desperation, he decides to go on a hunger strike. By telling the story from the point of view of the victim Marécaux, director Vincent Garenq knows how to put his finger on the sore spot for the French justice. The haughtiness of Burgaud, who thinks he has the trial of a lifetime, and the lax way in which testimonials are handled expose the weaknesses in the French judicial system. As a result, the lives of seventeen wrongly convicted people – and those of their family and friends – are completely shattered. Garenq confronts his viewers with that psychological and physical suffering by being close to Marécaux. The scenes in the prison are getting more gloomy and claustrophobic by the minute. An apparently innocent fragment in which the new year is ushered in by Marécaux and his fellow prisoners, takes on a subtext that cuts through the marrow. One humiliation after another, one rejection after another – it breaks the man more and more. It makes it all the more confronting when you realize that all this really happened.

‘Présumé coupable’ relies heavily on the performance of Philippe Torreton, who puts down an impressive performance. Gradually he changes from a confident husband and father of three children into a pathetic pile of human beings. His physical decline, which evokes memories of Michael Fassbender’s tour de force in ‘Hunger’ (2008), is of course the most striking, but the more subtle changes in his mental toughness are also very cleverly done. The stark photography completes the picture. ‘Présumé coupable’ is a convincing and penetrating film that gets under your skin and doesn’t come out again. Because you realize all too well that you too can become a victim of miscarriage of justice.

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