What a curious contemplation Zidane : a 21st Century Portrait is.
As the title suggests, it is a portrait rather than a documentary where viewers are encouraged to sit and absorb this version of conceptual art from directors Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno.
Zinedine Zidane (‘Zizou’ to his fans) was for a time world football’s best player and played at marquee club, Real Madrid. His contempories and team mates included Ronaldo, Beckham and Raul. Zidane played in the midfield as the pivot player through whom most advances were coordinated. Like supremely gifted players of all codes, Zidane found space and time, never appearing to be under pressure and making passes with a grace that belies the effort.
This 90 minute film uses over a dozen cameras to focus their attention on Zidane with only short cut aways to the game as a whole. This means you spend a long time looking at the ball at his feet or gazing at his face as he runs forward and back.
Perhaps the filmmakers were hoping to find the meaning of greatness or felt that the enigmatic pull of a superstar would sustain interest. In truth by removing the footballer from the context of the game reveals him to be simply a man rather than a ‘superstar’. I found my interest waning as time moved on.
As a contemplative experience, the accompanying music by Mogwai encourages a meditative response where even minute changes in Zizou’s otherwise impervious game-face is welcome. The shared joke with a teammate late in the game is refreshing as we witness his smile and creased twinkle around his eyes.
The filmmakers attempt at something greater, placing the date of this game, April 23, 2005, in a world’s moment in time, or Zidane’s reflection on his playing life, ultimately feels disjointed and out of place.
The filmmakers also play with the soundeffects to create different moods throughout the match. There are times when we can hear nothing but the roar and sing-song of the crowd, other times the heavy breathing of the players and the thump of the football as it is kicked from player to player. When opponent Villareal score the first goal, all noise is suspended and the hush of the Real Madrid players is palpable.
Ultimately however the film wants you to marvel at Zizou’s greatness. His fans only have to wait for Real’s answer goal as he charges forward, beats his opponent and sets up the perfect opening for teammate Beckham.
2 out of 5.