“On the brink of war. Ariane Mnouchkine and the Théâtre du Soleil in Kyiv”, on France 5: the Cartoucherie de Vincennes delivers its “cultural ammunition”

It is a documentary filmed in the snow and the cold, with a besieged city as a setting, a sky streaked with Russian drones as a horizon, and the roar of alarms as a soundtrack

“On the brink of war. Ariane Mnouchkine and the Théâtre du Soleil in Kyiv”, on France 5: the Cartoucherie de Vincennes delivers its “cultural ammunition”

It is a documentary filmed in the snow and the cold, with a besieged city as a setting, a sky streaked with Russian drones as a horizon, and the roar of alarms as a soundtrack. On the Brink of War is set in Kyiv (kyiv), Ukraine. Where Ariane Mnouchkine has decided to go, from March 2023, to run a nomadic school with volunteer members of her troop.

Twelve days of intensive training bringing together around a hundred Ukrainian actors (amateurs, students, professionals) from all over the country to try out what constitutes the DNA of the Théâtre du Soleil: improvisation. On site, they found a rehearsal room and its yellow curtain at the back of the stage, some costumes and accessories. The director didn't need much more to create an "island" (the word is hers) of peace and hope in the heart of the doldrums.

Followed by the camera of Duccio Bellugi-Vannuccini and Thomas Briat, this adventure is one of urgency and necessity. “We are not going to summer camp,” recalls Ariane Mnouchkine before leaving the Cartoucherie de Vincennes. She has no doubt: if the Ukrainians lose, she repeats, “we lose.” His artistic journey is political support.

A concentrate of paradoxes

But what good is art in war? This question haunts a documentary which knits its threads mesh by mesh between rehearsal sessions and asides by the directors with Ukrainians whose words summon reality under the camera lens: the husband of an actress fighting on the front. An actor, a Protestant pastor, obtained permission to follow the nomadic school. A young girl confides: “This is the first time we have heard about love since the total invasion of the country. » This film, of great tenderness, is a concentrate of paradoxes which coexist in joy. On the one hand, the devastation of the country, on the other, the demands of the theater.

Sitting in the stands, microphone in hand, Ariane Mnouchkine sculpts the scenes that emerge in front of the yellow curtain. The show is on set. He is also in the ranks of the public. An infinite number of emotions appear on the director’s face. Stormy, enthusiastic, hilarious, concentrated, she launches the music and gives the start to dazzling improvisations. She observes everyone, doesn't pass anything on to anyone, she gets impatient and enthusiastic. His dynamism is contagious, his energy incredible.

“Do we really need theater? », asks, twelve days later, when saying goodbye, a participant in the nomadic school. He lets a few minutes pass. Then adds: “Our soldiers defend Ukraine with weapons in their hands. We are building the new Ukraine. And for that, we need the cultural ammunition that you bring us. »

When the Soleil troupe leaves for France, they leave behind a theatrical weapon which is just as useful to life: learning to raise your head to embody a character is learning to no longer bow your head in front of the enemy . Message received five out of five by won over students whom Ariane Mnouchkine leaves with a final and beautiful injunction: “You must be convinced that you have chosen an art, theater, which is indestructible. »