Today is the last day of Satché’s life. He is a healthy man with a wife and children living in Senegal, but has been told that he will die, how we do not know. His family and friends give him gifts, most accepting his fate, some screaming ‘don’t go’. We are not quite sure of anything, how he and everyone else knows he is going to die is a mystery. We spend this day with Satché (played by Saul Williams), visiting an old girlfriend who states “you’re going to die before you have lived”, seeing an Uncle who washes the dead and observing everything for the last time.
The film is slow and reveals little but somehow there is enough to keep the audience intrigued. It is not particularly emotive considering the subject matter as Satché finds a kind of peace with it and so do we. The Senegalese culture is fascinating and as we follow Satché on his final day we learn little snippets about him and his past but there are still plenty of questions to be answered. This is a very interesting concept for a film but I felt it wasn’t executed in the best way possible. A moment where a singular tear rolls down his cheek as his Uncle demonstrates the washing ritual on him is as emotional as it gets, but this does make the film fascinating, as we cannot relate to this odd acceptance of unexplained death.
There are charming moments as the protagonist observes everyday life such as children dancing in the street and a scene where Satché fixes a broken door handle at home reiterates the mundane aspects of life that become all the more important when life is imminently over. A nice montage depicts Satché spending time with his wife and imagining his children grown up. Extreme close-ups depict eyes, feet and the arm of a child, literally showing us the human body and contemplating what comes after that.
Aujourd’hui is not an impact film, it is subtle and leaves a lot for the audience to work out. However, if you go with it, it is quite satisfying and will leave you with that same feeling of peace that the protagonist reaches. It will make you contemplate your own mortality but not in a depressing and morbid way, rather a reminder of the things we should and want to do. It is an interesting study of the Senegalese culture and of humans and how we deal with death, particularly if we know, or think we know, of our own mortality. Despite the simple story there is plenty of depth if the audience wants there to be, you can get out of this story as much or as little as you want.
Aujourd’hui is in Competition at this year’s Berlinale.
Director: Alain Gomis
Writer: Alain Gomis
Stars: Saul Williams, Djolof Mbengue and Anisia Uzeyman
Runtime: 86 mins