Residents of a nondescript high-rise wake up one day to find their building covered by a void that annihilates anything that comes in contact with it. Convinced right away that this “black veil” is here to stay, the hundred-odd occupants go into survival mode, forming racial gangs, hoarding resources and putting up barricades. Nobler values yield to primitive instincts and the foundations of civilisation begin to crack.
French filmmaker Guillaume Nicloux’s nihilistic dystopian drama La tour proceeds with the inexorability of a boulder rolling down a hill. Taking the premise at face value, Nicloux sidesteps logical explanations, presenting the veil as an abstract entity that simply exists. This purity of outline allows the film to accommodate several allegorical interpretations: religious, social and existential. Even so, La tour is a blunt, brutal confrontation with France’s contemporary race relations, with the Black-Blanc-Beur utopianism of yore making way for a bleaker, more desperate vision.
Shot entirely indoors in artificial light, this quintessential product of the pandemic era envisages a world in which the public realm is a source of constant dread. Yet the exterminating angel in this unforgiving tower in lockdown isn’t the world, but humankind itself.