The skyscraper being built outside Dakar by underpaid construction workers is a thick spar tapered to a point, massive and looming over everything around it. The air hangs thick and hazy from the crashing Atlantic, and at night, with the winking light atop it, the tower looks like it is piercing the sky itself, a tooth or talon scratching the low dark blue clouds. During the day, everything is pale, a sky somewhere between dust and mist, the rolling sun-bleached sea the same color as Ada’s light chambray top—the top her boyfriend Souleimane would love to get inside of, but it is its sister blue sea that he will vanish into instead.
Atlantics (Atlantique) is a movie about the impact of labor migration on the communities left behind, told through a love story, told in turn through a ghost story. It has a hypnotic pace, the cinematography and score and editing artful and cool—at one moment elliptical, the other looking right at you. It reminded me a bit of fellow French filmmaker Claire Denis (Beau Travail, High Life), whom director Mati Diop has worked with as an actress. I also found myself thinking of Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, which I feel held its own supernatural elements with a somewhat similar hand.
But Atlantics’ interests are also very much its own. Atlantics has waves, it has fever, and the sun going down. It has a quiet nightclub open to the sea with only women in it, and fires keep starting around town. There is both ambiance and economics here, an inherently modern core and outlook in a fable-like tale of a haunting. It’s mournful, passionate, eerie, vindictive, and dreamy. It’s a mood, and I was in it.