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1816. After the battle of Waterloo, Louis XVIII is restored to the French throne. De Rochefort sets sail for Senegal on the frigate "Medusa", captained by Captain Chaumareys, with the future governor of Senegal, Mr. Schmaltz, and his familiy on board. In no time, the atmosphere of the voyage is thick with hatred and mistrust. The tension mounts between the autocratic, incompetent Capt. Chaumareys and Coudein, his lieutenant, until one fine day in june, despite Coudein's warnings, the "Medusa" is inexplicably wrecked.
“The Raft of the Medusa” is a beautiful, paradoxical work. It is in a class of its own in French cinema — a spectacular show that is anti-spectacular. It carries a permanent tension between the novelistic lyricism of its storyline and the elevated dryness of its mise en scène, the majesty of its sets and music and the honed-down rigor of its framing and camerawork. From this dialectic arises the strange beauty of the film, like an impossible cross between Curtiz and Rivette, Chéreau and Bresson, Titanic and Lifeboat, Géricault and Hergé. Azimi describes this modestly budgeted film, which took him years to make, as a “hand-made superproduction”. No other words could better sum up the process that led to this Raft, the magnificent indomitability of its ethical and artistic wager.”
(From an article by Serge Kaganski in “Les Inrockuptibles”, July 29th - August 18th 1998)