×

Film Review: ‘Atlantic.’

A sensitive and lyrical look at a Moroccan windsurfer who falls in love with long distances.

With:
Fettah Lamara, Thekla Reuten, Mohamed Majd, Boujmaa Guilloul, Hassna Souidi, Soufyan Sahli, Wisal Hatimi, Driss Hakimi, Jan-Willem van Ewijk. (Arabic, French, English dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2196488/reference

Brief plot descriptions are often deceptive, which is why categorizing “Atlantic.” as a windsurfing movie, or even an immigration drama, fails to capture the sensitivity and lyricism that sophomore helmer Jan-Willem van Ewijk and d.p. Jasper Wolf bring to this engaging, generally restrained pic. Beautifully shot on the Moroccan coast, the film tells of a local windsurfer whose frequent association with Euro travelers adds a highly charged pull to the already palpable draw of departure. Atmospheric, at times impressionistic while still firmly tied to a discernible plot, “Atlantic.” is sailing smoothly in fest waters, and could see a small Euro release.

Perhaps there’s too much whispered voiceover from Fettah (Fettah Lamara), and the introduction of choral voices into Piet Swerts’ sweeping music is definitely unnecessary. Yet tangible rewards come from the way van Ewijk evokes the tug-of-war tension between a connection to place and a yearning for what lies beyond. He’s also fortunate in casting Lamara, a talented tyro these whose professional training in windsurfing enabled him to meet the brutal demands of the waves while maintaining a sense of character.

Fettah is a fisherman during the off-season and a windsurfing guide when the tourists come, lured by the famed waves of his village, Moulay Bouzarqtoune. Each year he makes friends with the visitors, and each year they leave. Jan (van Ewijk) is there with his g.f., Alexandra (Thekla Reuten), and Fettah falls for the young woman, despite knowing her unavailability. When they depart, he feels it’s time for him to leave Morocco as well, training his mind and body to withstand what will be an arduous journey.

Popular on Variety

That’s more or less it in terms of plot, but the director, together with co-scripter Abdelhadi Samih, fills the narrative with telling details that make the characters full-bodied figures even when they have little to do. For Fettah, his inner life is verbalized through voiceovers, addressed to young Wisal (Wisal Hatimi) whom he assures won’t be abandoned in thought, and whom he enjoins to watch over the village when he’s gone. Fettah can’t explain why he has this urge to leave: “You who live beyond the horizon, why do you have such power over me?” he asks himself.

Unlike numerous Moroccan films addressing the desperation of so many would-be emigrants, “Atlantic.” doesn’t identify economic or social reasons for Fettah’s need to move on (aside from a drop in fish stocks). Some may suggest that’s because the director is Dutch rather than a local, making him less connected to the pressing crisis in the country, yet by fashioning his protag as less of a stereotyped everyman, van Ewijk allows him to live and breathe as a person rather than a symbol. Certainly knowledge of the immigration issue is practically a prerequisite for a full appreciation, but since Fettah isn’t limited to a particular social problem, his desires are given the kind of free range one expects from a guy who spends a lot of time windsurfing.

Nevertheless, the film remains very site-specific, and its visuals are grounded in Morocco’s coastal landscape. Expansive scenes of nature alternate with shots of immediate intimacy, so that gliding camerawork — including stunning helicopter shots — gives way to closeups generally lensed above, or below, or to the side, but rarely straight-on. A large part of the film’s success comes from the way it captures the symbiotic relationship between Fettah and the waves, and the way he plays within nature’s rhythms. Exhilarating windsurfing shots won’t disappoint those expecting that sort of thing, yet there’s far more here than surfer thrills.

Music, often consisting of minor key strings, can be a touch overdone. The period in the title is unexplained (van Ewijk also used the punctuation in his debut feature, “Nu.”), and probably not worth the semiotic guesswork of wondering whether it has some deeper meaning relating to ending one stage of life and starting another.

Film Review: 'Atlantic.'

Reviewed at Dubai Film Festival (Arabian Nights), Dec. 16, 2014. (Also in Rotterdam Film Festival — Limelight; Gothenburg Film Festival — Five Continents; Berlin Film Festival — market; 2014 Toronto, Busan film festivals.) Running time: 94 MIN.

Production: (Netherlands-Belgium-Germany-Morocco) A Cinemien (in Netherlands) release of an Augustus Film presentation of an Augustus Film, MAN's Films, Endorphine Prod., Propellor Film, NTR Television Atlantic. production. (International sales: Fortissimo, Amsterdam.) Produced by Bero Beyer. Co-producers, Marion Haensel, Fabian Massah, Jan-Willem van Ewijk.

Crew: Directed by Jan-Willem van Ewijk. Screenplay, van Ewijk, Abdelhadi Samih. Camera (color, HD), Jasper Wolf; editor, Mona Braeuer; music, Piet Swerts, Mourad Belouadi; production designer, Karim Haffad; costume designer, Asmae Afif; sound, Christian Monheim, Gervaise Demeure, Franco Piscopo; line producers, Marianne Lambert, Souad Lamriki; associate producers, Noelle Haitsma, Steven Novick, Aron Thompson, Philip Meyers, Karl Dillon, Hans Oerlemans, Marina Blok, Sandra Beerends, Astrid Prickaerts; assistant director, Amine Lamriki; casting, Aziza Marzak.

With: Fettah Lamara, Thekla Reuten, Mohamed Majd, Boujmaa Guilloul, Hassna Souidi, Soufyan Sahli, Wisal Hatimi, Driss Hakimi, Jan-Willem van Ewijk. (Arabic, French, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Nardjes A.

    ‘Invisible Life’s’ Karim Ainouz Drops Trailer for 'Nardjes A.’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    On Feb. 14 last year, Karim Aïnouz arrived in Algeria to trace via the story of his parents the Algerian Revolution which happened 60 years ago – its 1954-62 War of Independence from France. The uprising he very quickly started to shoot, however, was one happening right then, the Revolution of Smiles, whose first street [...]

  • Call of the Wild

    Harrison Ford in 'The Call of the Wild': Film Review

    Dogs, in their rambunctious domesticated way, can lead us overly civilized humans a step or two closer to the natural world. So it’s only fitting that the best dog movies have saluted that unruly canine spirit without a lot of artificial flavoring. Hollywood’s classic dog tales, like “Old Yeller” (1957) or “Lassie Come Home” (1943), [...]

  • Adventures of a Mathematician

    Indie Sales Unveils Trailer For 'Adventures of a Mathematician' (EXCLUSIVE)

    In the run up to Berlin’s European Film Market, Indie Sales has unveiled the trailer for Thor Klein’s “Adventures of a Mathematician” which had its world premiere in Palm Springs. The film tells the inspiring true story of a Polish-Jewish mathematician who got a fellowship at Harvard and went on to join the prestigious Manhattan [...]

  • Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in SONIC THE

    How Internet Backlash Helped 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Avoid Box Office Disaster

    It’s not a stretch to say Universal’s “Cats” and Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” had two of the most polarizing movie trailers in recent memory. Both caught fire online for all the wrong reasons after fans on social media torched the questionable CGI. “Cats,” an adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, used a new science called [...]

  • Neumond Berlin Germany Restaurant

    Berlin Offers Diversity in Restaurant Scene

    Berlin Film Festival attendees have a chance to sample the diverse cuisine of a foodie city. Some of the top pics for a pre-film repast: Adana Grillhaus  A hugely popular Turkish restaurant in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, Adana Grillhaus now has a second location right around the corner. Popular on Variety Manteuffelstr. 86 +49 30 6127790 [...]

  • my salinger year

    Berlin Festival's New Selection Committee Takes Off

    Berlin’s new seven-member selection committee — four women and three men — comprises the core of new director Carlo Chatrian’s programming staff, which is led Canadian critic Mark Peranson. Peranson was the Locarno Film Festival’s chief of programming when Chatrian headed that Swiss festival. This year, Berlin is opening with “My Salinger Year,” starring Sigourney [...]

  • Mariette Rissenbeek Berlin Film Festival Executive

    Mariette Rissenbeek Faces Challenges as Berlin Festival Executive Director

    Making her debut as the new executive director of the Berlin Film Festival this year, Mariette Rissenbeek is facing some big challenges after taking over management duties at one of the world’s biggest public film fests. Rissenbeek and new artistic director Carlo Chatrian succeed Dieter Kosslick, who left an indelible mark on the fest after [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content