A drifter living in the woods outside a small French coastal town strikes up a unique relationship with a strange young woman. When killings ensue, the local police begin an investigation, but the couple remain apart from everything through a mix of religion, spirituality and complete detachment.
Bruno Dumont’s meticulous and distinctive films encompass a wide cross-section of subjects. He is determined to invest his work with an emotive and humanistic bias, positioned within a strictly composed and compelling visual structure. Also central to his work is his sensitivity to landscape — in the case of Hors Satan, the Côte d’Opale on France’s northwestern Atlantic coast — and to enigmatic characters on the fringes of society. Against his setting, Dumont rigorously sets mode, tone and colour.
Hors Satan focuses on a true outsider, a drifter who lives in the woods outside a small village where he strikes up a strange and unique relationship with a young woman. Both remain nameless throughout the film. The Guy acts as protector to the Girl, unemotionally killing a couple of people whom she claims are tormenting her and making her life a living hell. Their communication is virtually wordless and nothing is ever made explicit, the meaning left to the viewer. As the local police start to investigate the murders, we are led to believe that it will not be long before the Guy is apprehended. However, Hors Satan is far from a crime drama, its director more interested in the inexplicable as he nudges his film in another direction.
Hors Satan transcends its own realist aesthetic and Dumont’s love of physical environment by veering toward the sublime. This narrative shift comes in the form of spiritual transformations that carry distinct religious overtones. Dumont crafts a film in which logic, reason and the structures of society give way to other forces, moving us outside our comfort zone into a space that can be described as other-worldly and highly personal. Directing with his customary discipline and mastery, Dumont once again impresses and confounds, raising as many questions as he answers. —TIFF
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
Contemplative cinema that, while challenging with it's extreme minimalism, subtlety, and ambiguity, evolved into something very satisfying by the end. Possibly my new favorite Dumont.
The Museum of the Moving Image’s First Look series provides a strong, welcome antidote to January’s anemic cinematic landscape.
And more year-end lists from New York and the Guardian. Plus: Sony vs the New Yorker.
A remarkable debut and films by Bruno Dumont, Andrei Zvyagintsev, Joachim Trier and more from our first report from Toronto.
The third part of a video interview series from Cannes by myself and Ryland Walker Knight.