38 Witnesses

"38 témoins" is a superb French crime story. Inspired by the horrific 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City, writer/director Lucas Belvaux has crafted a similar situation in Le Havre, France, where 38 adults in surrounding buildings not only hear a victim's screams, but each, for his or her own reasons, ignores them.

In this gripping character study, we see:
  • Yvan Attal as Pierre, the happily married harbor pilot who claims he wasn't home when the crime took place.
  • Sophie Quinton as Louise, his wife, who was traveling home from Hong Kong at the time.
  • Nicole Garcia is Sylvie, the newspaper woman who has a BIG story!
  • Natacha Régnier is Anne, the neighbor who claims she took a sleeping pill.
Of course there are numerous neighbors, each with his or her own alibi, and police officials who debate the feasibility of prosecuting thirty-eight witnesses. We see police officers question the neighbors, but we switch back and forth with scenes from the waterfront where our married couple works. We see heavy equipment in action as mammoth container ships are off-loaded, and we watch the harbor tugs jockey these behemoths up to the dock.

After the Genovese scandal, many social scientists studied the Diffusion of Responsibility (or bystander effect), in which a person sees or hears a crime, but assumes "someone else" will step up to the plate and stop it, or at least call the police. We see the emotional aftermath and it's effects on the neighbors after having failed this test. Watching this film forces each of us to examine our own conscience: would we take action?

Although the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival calls this "38 Wit- nesses," be aware that it might also be found under "One Night." As I searched for the roster of actors, that was where I found it....