Old (Film) School: Chocolat by Claire Denis

Originally Written in 2003

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The overlying essence of the film Chocolat is one of stagnation and entropy.  The character of France is the only person who seems to be comfortable with her surroundings and this is because she is a child.  Every other character possesses a volatile intensity that is a product of their position in Cameroonian society.

Stagnation is most evident when observing Aimée.  She is a vital young woman who is simply bursting to live a normal life. It is obvious that Aimée detests Cameroon, for she tries to keep her own traditions, while stubbornly  refusing to try new African ways. She also barely talks or relates with France; for she is too engrossed in her wistful dreaming of home. When she finally reaches out to Protée, she is rebuked for overstepping her boundaries.  It is as if Aimée is stuck in a narrow box in which she cannot be happy because she is not home and cannot make a home in such a rigidly defined locale.

The entropy of Chocolat is evident from observing the male characters. The white men are incredibly edgy because they know, deep down, that their occupation is unjust and will be short-lived.  Marc is fairly calm for he knows that the colony will not last.  The other white men express their uneasiness by acting superior to the black people and to women. Protée deals with the inevitable by acting stoically while being the consummate butler.  He knows the occupation will eventually end and he will then be able to live with the dignity which the white man had denied him.

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