For some miraculous reason, the town where I live has an independent film festival where VeganProf and I got to see A.L.F. tonight. It’s a French film that will be out in France in November and later, hopefully, in the US. As the title indicates, it is about the Animal Liberation Front.
It is not a documentary, though. the basic plot follows the police custody and initial interrogation of Franck, the leader of an ALF group and then backtracks to Franck and his group as they get ready to raid a dog laboratory. The movie then goes back and forth between Franck in custody, following the members of the group in the 24 hours before the raid, as well as Sarah’s therapy sessions as she awaits Franck’s release after serving a 10-month prison sentence for armed robbery. So, the timeline is disjointed but not at all hard to follow.
In between, we get glimpses of animal torture and mistreatment in factory farms or labs, but not a whole lot, just enough to get a sense of the horror. The director has smartly placed these images so they relate to members of the group and how they got to the point of raiding the lab. It was a risky choice though: too many of such images would have overwhelmed the narrative and taken over the film. The choice of soundtrack for these images makes them all the more powerful not as voyeuristic, but as explanatory as to the members’ states of mind as they get themselves ready for the raid.
A.L.F. reminded me of Amores Perros (another movie about dogs, incidentally) not just in the structure of disjointed timeline and narrative but also in the ways in which each flashback gives the audience opportunities to see all the main characters more in depth as it humanizes them, including the cops who interrogate Franck. As much as the film definitely has a point of view and sides with the activists, it does not take cheap shots at the cops, which would have been easy. Everyone get a humane treatment, not ironically.
Similarly, the director made smart choices as to what to show and what was not necessary to show: the raid and Franck’s arrest. From the first scene of the film, we know the raid was a success but that Franck got arrested. That is established and showing it in details would have been redundant.
Anyone studying the sociology of social movements would find this film interesting as it shows the experience of becoming involved in a movement seen as radical as an alienating one. It seems all the members of Franck’s group end up having to detach themselves from close and intimate relationships as they get deeper into the movement, not because of a cult-like aspect, but because of the experience of living with images of tortured animals that redefines their identities and priorities (as Chloe blows her audition and Sarah stops showing up at the newspaper where she works). Being involved in such a movement, even before getting into illegal activities, creates a dual identities for the members of the group where the links between their “normal” identities and their ALF identities become more tenuous and less real to them.
So, a good film to see if/when it really comes out here.
And let’s not forget the one star of this film, the raid truck: