‘Le Dernier Combat’, directed by Luc Besson in 1983, is a French post-apocalyptic action movie set in a world in which everyone is mute. The main character, played by Pierre Jolivet and described in the cast list as ‘The Man’, travels through a blasted wasteland. He encounters a group of scavengers and steals a car battery from them using it to power a small aircraft. He escapes by plane, only to crash and become involved with a benevolent doctor, a violent man, played by Jean Reno, and an imprisoned woman. After a fight, the doctor and woman are killed, The Man kills Reno’s character and returns to the scavengers from the start of the film, usurping their ‘Captain’ and becoming their new leader. It’s a stark and bleak, but surprisingly witty black-and-white film, with a few touching human scenes amongst the ‘Mad Max’-style dusty battles for survival. The effect of the catastrophe, removing the voices of the humans, makes this an almost silent film. The effect of this is to draw attention to the miming, stylised performances and the imagery. This is the unique feature of the film, without voices the motives of the characters is unclear and a lot of the drama comes from their fractious efforts to communicate. Highlights of the film is a scene between the Man and the doctor. The letter inhales gas and, when exhaling it, is able to say ‘hello’. After a number of attempts, the Man is able to return the greeting. The sound of the only two words in the film, coupled with the delight of the doctor and the overwhelming emotion of the Man, make this dialogue (pared down to its basic components) as moving and effecting as any long speech.
Would I recommend it? Yes – watch it with ‘Mad Max’ or perhaps ‘La Jetée’ for another vision of France after an apocalypse.