Terror's Advocate draws you into the serpentine gaze of Jacques Verges.I was more at ease with scenes of his earlier history, when he was chief lawyer for the anti-colonial Algerians.He was born angry, of mixed race,half French and half Vietnamese.The film starts ominously with him interviewed in his 80s,about the Khymer Rouge atrocities.He merely downplays them as unintentional,more to do with American bombing.He had befriended Pol Pot in his youth in France amongst anti-colonial students. He went missing for the 70s decade, and it's rumoured he was in Cambodia. He qualifies as a lawyer aged 30,and his first case was defending Jamila Bouhired,involved with the `Milk Bar'bomb depicted in The Battle of Algiers.He saved her from the death penalty and married her, becoming famous in his use of the `rupture defence' strategy.The Algerian War of Independence was a great cause.
He romanticizes the great liberation struggle.You sense his youthful idealism and naivety.Upon this solid foundation,Schroeder,the director who seems to side with him here later shows greater ambiguity and like someone suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, seems half beguiled by the inscrutable enigmatic charm of Verger.who becomes more amoral and dubious,especially when he disappears from 1970-78 and comes back with a changed outlook. His contacts, from PLO ,Carlos the Jackal,Baader-Meinhoff members,Francois Genoud,a Swiss Nazi financier, and Klaus Barbie.He becomes a veritable go-between of terrorists, who are fascists and oppressors.
He smokes a big cigar and reels off his anecdotes with a cool unrepentant gaze,regaling us as if with his triumphs and achievements but only answering what he wants to.He is never once challenged, and Schroeder said this film is `for you' to Verges who sat in the audience.As a great defender,he understands where the perpetrator comes from, even if he'd never do it himself.But to cross a white line between counsel and client-exchanging empathy with sympathy-to identify with the client's cause and fetishise terrorism,even falling in love with the Jackal's mistress, and to do anything for money, is when corruption sets in.There are gaps in the film:he left his wife and children with no explanation;he disappeared for 10 years,why?He exhanges oppressed peoples for individual oppressors.He supports Nazis when he fought them in his youth as part of the Free French forces.We need to draw our own conclusions.