By José Sarmiento Hinojosa
Somehow the religious and mystical overtones in Bruno Dumont‘s oeuvre have always been a trademark of his work, but in his latest films (especially Hadewijch and Hors Satan) they seem to slowly lose some of their subtlety and give way to a more evident although not less troubling mise-en-scene. One could easily revisit the progression since its beginnings: The title of his prime opera, La Vie de Jésus (that could be a mere anecdote if one hasn’t seen the film), Pharaoh De Winter’s final kiss as the anthological example of human communion in L’Humanité, the profound and misguided love of God of a pious Céline in Hadewijch, and the presence of David Dewaele (in his second consecutive role in a Dumont film) as a mystical, religious miracle maker.
Even the raw exploration of sexuality and violence which permeates his work and the metaphysical relationship between man and nature approach an almost plausible philosophical theology. In this format, the prime evolution of humanity seems to be taken from different passages of the bible, as if Dumont wanted to focus on the birth of mankind and its subsequential universal atrocities. As so, the crime drama (Humanité), the horror film (Twentynine Palms), the war movie (Flandres) and all the subdued genres that hide behind Dumont’s body of work are imbued with this concept of “the holy , the terrible and the sacred”, an almost obsessive respect for the texts of the sacred book.
It would seem almost ironic that Bruno Dumont, a declared non-believer, had such increased interest in these topics. In Hors Satan (appropriately named “Outside Satan”), he follows a drifter who’s morality and behavior seem to transcend human nature, reflecting the qualities of a true mystic, a character who dwells even beyond life and death, a human being who decides on salvation and condemnation, which is almost impassible but carries a complex and unexplored pathos, a man completely uninterested in the mundane, a terrible Nietzschian göttlich übermensch, a contradiction of sorts.
It’s remarkable that the French filmmaker has managed to keep his methods from becoming formulaic. With his sixth work, Dumont has sustained a permanent, if not uniform, quality throughout his films. The search of humanity’s primal instinct is alive in Hors Satan, and maybe, like Dreyer and Pialat did before, Dumont’s relentless search is really about what is beyond religion, beyond theology and what is nearer to mankind, the obscure and invisible power that drives this flesh machine that we can’t seem to understand, and uses the Bible as a reference source, not of belief, but of erotics, the book as a work of art- in his own words.
Director: Bruno Dumont
Producers: Jean Bréhat, Rachid Bouchareb, Muriel Merlin
Screenwriter: Bruno Dumont
Cinematography: Yves Cape
Cast: David Dewaele, Alexandra Lemaitre, Valérie Mestdagh, Sonia Barthe