Moloch Tropicalby Sihle Mthembu / 13.11.2010
A man tells his maid he wants to see her vagina. He is cold and affectless, and he is also the (democratically elected) President of Haiti. The presidential palace has become an amoral dead zone with the President about to leave office. A power vacuum. A kind of limbo. Not hard to imagine in Third World countries. Or indeed in the US when the country waited to see who would emerge the leader, Bush or Gore. President Jean Théogène (wonderfully played by Zinedine Soualem), sees limbo as a license to misbehave. Running naked into the hills, giving hilariously neurotic speeches and trying to sleep with everyone. It’s a brilliant unpicking of the raging id of ruling elites.
Moloch Tropical is tremendously effective satire. Director Raoul Peck’s latest offering is his most ambitious film yet. Inspired by Russian master Alexander Sokurov’s gloomily deranged Hitler biopic Moloch, Peck shifts the setting to Haiti. It’s an inspired move. Given the country’s near complete post-disaster breakdown. How power corrupts is its urgent theme.
President Théogèn talks to a former ally and journalist tortured for days. The scene is intense. Both men implicated by larger social forces. Absurd events pile up. This sharp sense of the absurd is similar to recent classic Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Three Monkeys. Invoking the cruel uncertainty in ruling circles.
When the President’s well meaning wife tries to help him leave office with a sense of pride, he yells “Who the fuck do you think you are? Kofi Annan, Martti Ahtisaari, the Pope!”
The film expertly dissects the paranoid sexual dynamic of the political class. Everyone is getting fucked. A minister is sleeping with a member of the presidential band, who is involved with the maid who is selling herself to the President.
Moloch Tropical will leave you saying, “I need to watch that again.”