The Goldman Case


Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Cédric Kahn on The Goldman Case: 'I see the audience as being a kind of jury. I want them to ask where the truth lies. That was the most important thing for me'
"A documentary-drama of hypnotic power." | Photo: Moonshaker

Courtroom dramas in the way of 12 Angry Men have never been staple of French cinema with a few notable exceptions such as the award-laden Saint Omer by Alice Dion and back in time Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Truth.

Cédric Kahn could start a new trend with a riveting new film that has opened Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight, set almost entirely within the sombre and unremitting setting of a courtroom.

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At the heart soul of the proceedings is a French activist turned criminal Pierre Goldman, who infamously declined to call any witnesses to support his defence. He is appealing a conviction for two murders which he states he did not commit. At the same time he has conceded that he was responsible for multiple armed robberies in the suburbs of Paris in the Seventies.

The trial at the time in 1976 was a cliffhanger for the entire French population, with such luminaries as Simone Signoret and Jean-Paul Sartre appearing in court to support, along with a chorus of other less known supporters who interrupt vocally throughout the appeal.

Kahn, who directs with an assured hand for the complexity and intricacies of the law, also wrote the script, with his collaborator Nathalie Hertberg, using - you suspect - large quantities of the court transcripts in what emerges as a documentary-drama of hypnotic power even to those outside France who may not be familiar with the case.

The director gives much of the floor to Goldman, who uses the power of rhetoric to put over his contentions while all the time taking his defence team unawares of changes in his testimonies. His lawyer, Georges Kiejman (a fine performance from Arthur Harari, also a director of such films as Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle), gives a fine account of someone simply trying to do the best by his client in trying circumstances.

Goldman is created forensically by Arieh Worthalter (seen in a supporting role in Lukas Dhont’s Girl) who masterfully holds sway so you are never entirely sure what to believe - and Kahn agilely avoids coming down on one side or the other.

The courtroom itself is a volatile arena of conflicting emotions with accusations of anti-Semitism thrown into the mix to the delight of Goldman’s supporters.

What amounts to a fascinating documentary-drama never moves out of the confines of its court setting, which might have proved overly claustrophobic in lesser skilled hands. Kahn, however, uses this to his advantage so the exchanges feature in sharp focus.

Reviewed on: 17 May 2023
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A chronicle of the trial of Goldman, a French left-wing revolutionary who was convicted of several robberies and was mysteriously murdered.

Director: Cédric Kahn

Writer: Nathalie Hertzberg, Cédric Kahn

Starring: Ariel Worthalter, Arthur Harari, Jeremy Lewin, Nicolas Briancon, Stephan Guerin-Tilie

Year: 2023

Runtime: 115 minutes

Country: France

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