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NH Tit-Bits
11 July 2011
Good and bad sacrum in Bruno Dumont's new film

What would have happened if the French director, Bruno Dumont, in the summertime of 2001 had come to Sanok, a provincial town near the Polish border to take part in the first edition of a small, local film festival, which aimed at ambitious goals - familiarising Polish audiences with films marking out new horizons of cinema? He might have liked this place - rather an empty, austere, and self-enclosed one. After the screening of Dumont's Humanity rewarded in Cannes, which proved the first "new horizontal" hit in the history of the festival, the director would have heard from a lot of viewers a helpless confession: "I don't know what to think about your film".

In spite of some "training in Dumont" we still tend to repeat this sentence even today. Yet, the more time passes by, the more fascinated you become. With each film that he makes, the director enfeebles the pleasure of watching, makes it difficult to comprehend plots and their interpretation, referring to ephemeral sensitivity, experience, audience's intuition rather than conventions or formulas on how to live. In his films, each location, each character may become a symbol; still, what prevails while watching is the sense of reality. Various orders mix and overlap. Things edited by the director and what the audience actually is given to see differ significantly. Dumont's films cease to belong to him.

In one of the interviews Bruno Dumont says: "I make films in which I leave space for the spectators with their own memory and recollections and the films can fill all the gaps inside of them. When I am watching a film, I want it to let me interpret, decide and feel. If there is sadness in it, I do not need music which would strengthen me in this sadness. I am a big boy; I can afford to have my own emotions. In the film that I am watching, I like finding my little room from which I can look at the world and feel it in my own way. I like leaving the cinema, thinking about the mystery which remains in me. Cinema builds memory, recalls memories. To me, the most important seems to be the fact that the spectator absorbs the film, becomes its part".

Dumont's latest film, Outside Satan, previously announced as Kingdom, is sometimes compared with his early minimalist film, The Life of Jesus, where Dumont in the most literary way pondered upon the essence of humanity and upon initiation of sainthood in human world. If the director really tries to build the bridge between his debut and his latest film thanks to certain formal similarities, this time it is sacrum that interests him. David Dewaele playing the role of a mysterious man from the dunes, a healer and murderer, who administers justice which is hard to accept when the Decalogue is taken into consideration, acts as a personification of this sacrum, a priest performing the rites. And as in the case of an ancient temple, what leads to him are monstrous, "inhumane" stairs, alerting human being to the fact that communing with sacrum is dangerous even when its seems to be good, even if it seems to be only pure love. The man is inviolable for human law and understanding, but at the same he is also "untouchable" to the girl who is in love with him, and whose role is played by androgynous Alexandra Lemâtre, an amateur actress discovered by the director in a local café.

The man resembles a powerful angel taken from the murkiness of mythology. He sows seed and is deprived of any doubts, which accompanied other cinematic angels paying high price for their exceptionality. Dewaele does not belong with this world in spite of his inconspicuous, very humane appearance. The conviction about his power has its source outside of him - in the austere landscape of French coast, framed in a very peculiar manner by Yves Cape, inspired by Gabriel Figueroa's cinematography from early films by Buñuel. Next to distant sets with a horizon line in a low position, we will also find an element so characteristic of Dumont, namely, faces of characters seen in close-up and with their look fastened on open, empty spaces.

(Agnieszka Szeffel)

Retrospective: Bruno Dumont

Andrea Picard: In Das Auge od the Beholder: Thomas Hirschhorn and Bruno Dumont (cinema scope)

A man, a girl and nature in Hors Satan (wywiad z Yvesem Cape, autorem zdjęć do filmu Poza szatanem)

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