Céline is deeply in love with God, as her pious prayers attest. Her mother superior, however, has concerns about the young woman’s confused acts of abstinence and casts her from the convent to rethink her devotion. Bruno Dumont’s fifth feature is a cinematic meditation on the boundaries of faith, especially in a multicultural contemporary landscape privileging the physical, carnal and material. Céline goes from austerely ecumenical quarters back to a Parisian family home as emotionally barren as it is antiquely opulent. She gains entry to more complex cultural conditions, family dynamics and moral quandaries when she meets Yassine, a young Arab who lives in a late-model high-rise housing project. He assuages her loneliness and wants her as a lover, but her vow of chastity engenders a sense of confusion that inspires impulsive acts of petty crime. She goes along for the ride, but is more captivated by his older brother, Nassir, a fervent Muslim with whom she engages in halting theological discussion and ultimately joins in acts of religious extremism. The action veers to the Middle East and back, though tidy denouements aren’t to be found, as Dumont probes big questions in his dramatic narratives. As in his previous films—notably the unflinching L’Humanité and Twentynine Palms—signature themes of alienation, racial and sexual tension are present, though here, Dumont’s deliberate pacing, unerring, beautifully framed close-ups and flashes of violence include a welcome new element: a peculiar sense of hope. —Glen Helfand
Bruno Dumont is a filmmaker whose use of celluloid is a direct result of his intense desire to understand and make sense of the world around him. His downbeat dramas may not appeal to those who see only the negative in a cinematic world of stark reality, but viewers with the ability to see a glimmer of light in the darkness will surely connect with his sometimes bleak cinematic endeavors. A former philosophy professor who has turned his mind toward crafting confrontational films in which no aspect of modern society is out of bounds, Dumont has claimed that his films are the result of a noted effort to bring film back to the body in hopes of stirring the viewer’s emotions. His 1997 debut, The Life of Jesus, was not a literal retelling of the events of the life of the biblical Jesus, but a socially critical look at life in Northern France. Acclaimed worldwide for its affecting portrayal of bored street youth, the film opened many doors for the director, and it wasn’t long before… read more
Dumont illustrates the problem of the smart European director, how to deal with the Great Legacy without seeming to superficially rip it off. And there's some ripping off here, as always. But there's also much here that is unbelievably beautiful, with Dumont creating a heroine who might clue us in on how to see the director: extreme, drawn to hopelessness, yearning for a salvation without a name, and, yes, tender.
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An interview with the director about his film Hadewijch.
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"Following in the grand tradition of austere European filmmakers, Bruno Dumont gives religious faith quite a workout in his new film, Hadewijch
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My first foray into Dumont, so these are more observations, reactions, than a critical assessment.
This film depicts a progressive, mounting internal struggle caused by the fact that our relationship… read review
Bruno Dumont is a French director whose films are inspired by his fellow compatriot Robert Bresson and background in industrial documentary making. His singular films are stripped back and emotionally… read review