Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Dumont’s Hors Satan
to traditional Christian theology, evil is not the opposite of good, it is the
perversion. That could also be the motto
engraved on Bruno Dumont’s family crest.
Ever the aesthetically and thematically challenging auteur, Dumont again
focuses on extreme manifestations of faith, lust, and wrath, which may or may
not be fundamentally intertwined in his latest film, Hors Satan (trailer
opening this Friday at the Anthology Film Archives.
Guy” awakens in a rugged field somewhere in the northern French Côte d’Opale. When he knocks on a door, an unseen woman’s
arm gives him his daily bread. Soon the
vagrant will be joined by the slightly goth “Girl.” Suddenly the morning stillness is broken when
he delivers retribution to her abusive stepfather with a hunting rifle. It is a shocking, but matter-of-fact incident
that hardly seems to interrupt the Guy’s regular routine.
times we watch his morning prayers and alms, as well the innumerable long walks
he takes with the Girl. She is
definitely interested in him, but seems above and beyond temptations of the
flesh. Yet, at times he performs
ostensive exorcisms that are overtly (and violently) sexualized. In several keys scenes, sex is either a
purifying or corrupting force. Dumont
leaves such judgments frustratingly indeterminate.
to Dumont’s ethically muddled Hadewijch and
his brutally didactic Flanders, Hors Satan is paradoxically less
accessible but more spiritually engaging.
Despite the moral ambiguity of the central figure, HS explores issues of faith in good faith, so to speak. The Guy is clearly an archetypal holy fool,
but if he should fall from grace, would the villagers realize it?
David Dewaele is not really playing a flesh-and-blood character as the Guy, but
a focus for the projections of both the Girl and the audience. Nonetheless, his gaunt look and vague sense
of menace are undeniably effective. As
the Girl, Alexandra Lamatre’s raw earthiness and wide-eyed innocence are quite
arresting, wholly suiting Dumont’s austerity.
Shunning any kind of soundtrack music or
post-sound, Dumont recorded his cast in the moment, with only the natural
ambient background as accompaniment. Wind
through the grass was never so audibly ominous.
This is a tres deliberate film that can tax viewer indulgence in six or
seven ways simultaneously. However, it
has a specific and dramatic end in mind.
If you see only one Dumont film, this might be the one to choose. Recommended for adventurous cineastes fully
cognizant of Dumont’s style, Hors Satan opens
this Friday (1/18) in New York at the Anthology Film Archives.
Labels: Bruno Dumont, French Cinema