Some may think the metaphoric possibilities of an incurable illness that can be transmitted through sexual contact have been all but exhausted. Director André Téchiné almost proves otherwise in The Witnesses, a kind of film opera without music.
The Witnesses doesn't pay off with a great operatic pinnacle, but it's better that way. Better to show people we care about facing facts they care desperately about, without the consolation of plot mechanics.
The explosion of AIDS is the film's sobering heart, but the manner in which it affects those who witness it makes the story universal and, through each person's small, life-affirming reactions, hopeful.
This movie is more concerned with ideas of life and hope. Once we realize that this has been Téchiné's theme all along -- and not just another disease-of-the-week film -- then all the mood changes and banalities begin to come into focus.