There is always a danger that activism falls into the performative. That trying to promote social change becomes something you become so invested in that your personality is reduced to that. Or, worse still, that it is the revolution that assumes its personality, that in addition to doing havoc on the ego itself ends up harming the cause without remedy.
It is almost inevitable to meet people in any movement who end up wanting to profit from it, even assimilating it, until completely confusing the line between the two and causing irreparable damage to them. That is one of the themes that Olivier Assayas seems to want to extract in one of his most exciting works, halfway between cinema and series due to its double format, which we can also see in Filmin in both ways. Is about ‘Carlos‘.
Two narratives for multiple faces
The interesting thing about ‘Carlos’ is that it can be seen in both ways, as a movie lasting more than two and a half hours or as a series of three episodes that ends after five hours. Any method of choice is valid, although it can be said that the miniseries is the narration that most favors the character study that the French try to doand manages to go beyond that “long film” that he has recently mocked in his television remake of ‘Irma Vep’.
The story follows the life of revolutionary leader Carlos, real name Ilich Ramírez Sánchez. Although revolutionary is the soft term for this Venezuelan terrorist who began fighting for the Palestine Liberation Organization and ended becoming an opportunistic mercenary working for the intelligence services from countries like the Soviet Union or Iraq as long as the pay was substantial.
Also nicknamed the Jackal, in reference to the masterful film by Fred Zinnemann, although it could not be more opposed to the meticulous murderer of said film. Carlos ends up dominated by his impulsesfrom compulsive smoking to sex, but also in maintaining an appearance of commitment to the Palestinian cause, although he really did more for the Palestinian cause to raise him as a figure of admiration.
‘Carlos’: prodigious character study
that way of confuse revolution with messianic desires This is what makes the portrait of Carlos fascinating. Even Assayas himself can’t help but be mesmerized by both his glibness and the spiral he ends up in, becoming so obsessed with admiration that his fellow members of the movement get fed up with him. And not only them, but even the countries that shelter him during his clandestinity seem tired of his tendencies.
That meticulous construction towards a man without a country, who differs little from an absolutely empty and lost man, makes the series something essential. Edgar Ramirez’s formidable performance is also something to admire, showing off all the different facets through physical transformations that don’t feel over the top but well calculated. It manages to transcend the repetitive tendencies of the biopic to do a prodigious character study.