“The world has made a whore of me. I want to make the world a mess.”
For 30 years the small city of Colobane, asleep in the dusty heat of the Sahel, has been plunged into poverty and famine. When the return to the country of Linguère Ramatou, now a multi-millionaire, is announced after 30 years of absence, the city is in turmoil and foresees better days, hoping that the return of this old lady “richer than the World Bank” will revive their economy and change the landscape. Linguère, majestic, dressed in black and gold, arrives accompanied by her court. She is greeted like a queen by an official delegation and the jubilant crowd showing "the tenderness of a city which finds its child", and declaiming to the old woman a pompous speech in which, sly and interested in her largesse, they sing her kindness and praise.
Unfortunately for them, Linguère did not come back for fun but for a more seditious motive. She offers the inhabitants of Colobane a very simple deal: she will offer them 100 billion francs on one condition: that her former lover, the local grocer and future mayor Draman Drameh, be sentenced to death for having betrayed her in the past. In 1945, during a paternity trial, Draman had denied being the father of Linguère's child and produced two false witnesses during the trial claiming to have also slept with the young girl. Linguère was therefore humiliated, scarred by the court ruling, and had to flee the village, engaging in prostitution and losing her baby, before making a fortune many years later. Today, the old lady is determined to wash her name until it becomes pure again. To the one who has chosen his life as a broke grocer and imposed his own, she leaves only one alternative: death.
First of all outraged and under the pretext of protecting their friend, the inhabitants of Colobane reject this unacceptable offer: “We are in Africa but the drought has not yet made us savages!” They are indignant at the laughter of the old woman who tells them “I will wait.” And then ... baited by the billions, the good people of Colobane will therefore change their attitude towards Draman. Little by little, in the most insidious way possible, these “hyenas” will try to make Draman understand that it is time to take his own responsibilities and, without getting his hands dirty, will try to convince him that his suicide is arguably the best solution for everyone. Fearing for his life, Draman goes to the town hall and the police for help, shouting incitement to murder ... but everyone turns their backs on him.
As often in the works of Dürrenmatt (whose play “La Visite de la Vieille Dame” is adapted here for the second time in cinema after The Visit (1964), by Bernhard Wicki, with Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Quinn), the concept of responsibility is evoked from top to bottom: how to escape it and how, while manipulating your neighbor, reject it on him ... Cruel tale on cowardice, avarice and corruption, ferocious fable on the power of money, metaphor of Africa dependent on Western aid, Hyenas shows above all the hypocrisy present on each side: that of the inhabitants of course but also that of Draman and his past errors, without forgetting the duplicity also present in the sweet attitudes of the old lady interested only in his revenge.
The final scene in particular turns out to be so cruel it turns out to be funny. You have to see Colobane's inquisitive crowd getting ready to lynch Draman while singing aloud to whoever wants to hear it that "IT'S FOR THE TRUTH, NOT FOR THE MONEY", convinced of the merits of the sacrifice of their " friend ”.
As Linguère repeats before savoring his victory, “The world has made a whore of me. I want to make the world a mess.” With her cruel plan carried out, Linguère reveals the people of Colobane for what they really are: hyenas who, like that vulture circling over Draaman throughout the film, are just waiting to collect the pieces.