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Directed by Chantal Akerman

Belgium, France 2011 127 mins. In French

With Almayer’s Folly, Akerman tackles the terrible legacy of the European colonial project in Southeast Asia head-on through an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s late-19th-century novel of the same name. Crucially, Akerman makes a handful of changes, transposing Conrad’s Cambodia for Malaysia and Conrad’s 19th Century for the 1950s, the tail end of direct colonial control. Almayer (Stanislas Mehrar), a mostly-failed Belgian trader, takes up residence on a little-used Malaysian river, having tried various schemes to find gold. His daughter Nina (Aurora Marion), conceived with a local woman, recently come of age and with a foot in both worlds, is crucial to understanding Akerman’s views on the end of colonialism, or at least the outward perception thereof. The jungle teems and howls, Almayer slips into madness, and Nina must cope with a family legacy she didn’t choose. “As technically virtuosic as it is emotionally resonant, a work of literature come to vibrant life with none of the hallmarks of “authentic” adaptation. In other words, it’s another example of the essentiality of Chantal Akerman.”—Michael Koresky and Jeff Reichert, Reverse Shot.

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