Disco Boy


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Disco Boy
"If there’s vacillation in general at work, the slippery nature of the film, greased with the sweat of physical and metaphorical dance, remains beguiling." | Photo: Films Grand Huit

Franz Rogowski continues to prove a master of unpredictable performance in this trippy and kinetic debut from Giacomo Abbruzzese. He plays Belarussian Aleksei, who is hit by tragedy when he loses his best friend (Michal Baliki) as they make the dangerous and illegal crossing from Poland to France. Once there, he signs up to the Foreign Legion, which gives recruits access to a new identity and - after five years - French citizenship. When asked about his attitude to risk, Aleksei says: “Those who are afraid, they stay at home.”

What he doesn’t realise, perhaps, is that it's not just his body that he’s putting on the line but his mental state and, as his life collides with those of guerrilla fighter Jomo (Morr Ndiaye putting in a memorably muscular performance) and his sister Udoka (Laetitia Ky), while he is on a hostage-rescue mission to the Niger Delta.

Copy picture

Abbruzzese shoots with an intensity from the start, often letting faces fill the frame, so we feel the full force of their energy or lingering on Aleksei to give us time to tune in to his emotional state. A shift in that hinges on a scene of violence at the heart of the film, shot by Silver Bear-winning cinematographer Hélène Louvart with heat vision cameras that make bare skin burn fiercely in red against the cool blue of the night. The tension is added to by the pulsing and insistent score from Vitallic, which occasionally drops away so that other elements of the sound design - including the chink of a glass - can emerge to strong effect.

Abbruzzese comes at the ideas of imperialism and colonialism from an angle that sometimes feels almost too oblique and at others very in your face. Though the imagery is never less than striking, the lack of insight into the character of Jomo also leads to a narrative imbalance in places. But if there’s vacillation in general at work, the slippery nature of the film, greased with the sweat of physical and metaphorical dance, remains beguiling. If Aleksei was previously in the business of losing himself in a new life, he becomes at risk of losing himself completely as the film descends into an increasingly hallucinatory narrative hall of mirrors that makes you wonder who, exactly, is dreaming about whom.

Reviewed on: 29 Mar 2024
Share this with others on...
Disco Boy packshot
The destinies of a man who has joined the Foreign Legion and another in the Niger Delta intersect.
Amazon link

Director: Giacomo Abbruzzese

Writer: Giacomo Abbruzzese

Starring: Franz Rogowski, Morr Ndiaye, Laëtitia Ky, Leon Lučev

Year: 2023

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: France, Italy, Belgium, Poland

Search database:

If you like this, try:

Beau Travail