Black and white has become a medium that’s become a property more or less of the art circle. Matter of fact, the only pop film that was in black and white within the last five years was Sin City, and while that was arguably based on an artistic endeavor, you can hardly call the film an art film.
But the French have this knack of coming up with art films that blur the lines between what art strives to be, and what pop is. And when Christian Volckman decided to blur the edges of various media when coming up with Renaissance, the result is a palatable, if somewhat niche, masterpiece.
Renaissance is not for the casual viewer. It’s a thoughtful detective film that tackles the question of just how far humans are willing to go in order to survive - as told from a futuristic point of view. The main character is Barthelemy Karas, a policeman whose specialty is the retrieval of abduction victims. Karas is your classic action hero, silent and strong, and amusingly unattached, probably because of the very qualities that make him special. There’s no doubt that he knows his job very well, but as his character is slowly drawn out during his investigation of Ilona Tasuiev’s kidnapping, it is made more and more obvious that sooner or later, his specialties will eventually be compromised.
The film’s greatest strength, however, doesn’t come from the characters or the story; instead, the greatest thing about Renaissance is just how beautiful the entire thing looks. The gorgeous details of the computer generated backgrounds is further fleshed out by the black and white, rather than diminished, giving it more character and depth. It didn’t hurt that it helped flesh out the futuristic society as envisioned by Volckman.
Anybody looking for a good sci-fi flick in the vein of I, Robot or Minority Report will find something to like in this film, although there are some weak plot points that bring the story down. But these are small inconsistencies in an otherwise impressive film; Renaissance is what its name suggests: a beautiful art piece that serves to shock people into thinking about humanity’s place in the cosmos.