A goateed drifter (David Dewaele) lives in the pastures outside a rural French village. He wanders the fields, every so often dropping to his knees and clasping his hands before the sun. He’s particularly enamored of a young woman (Alexandra Lemâtre)—no character is named—with goth-rocker hair, a saintly countenance and downcast posture. That religious vibe you’re feeling is wholly intentional, and it turns out our wandering protagonist indeed has some truly otherworldly talents. These include, but are not limited to, casting out demonic spirits and getting away with murder. Maybe he’s Jesus. Or could he possibly be, oh, I dunno…Satan?!?
This mostly patience-trying feature from Bruno Dumont (Hadewijch) never answers the divine origins question definitively. As in his Cannes-prize–winning L’Humanite, the Gallic provocateur prefers his metaphysical happenings be as grounded in earthly matter as possible. Lots of scrupulously composed images counterpoint the dour human drama with its clinically grotesque sexual couplings and stoically absurdist flourishes straight out of Robert Bresson. (A scene in which hipster Christ fucks some sacred sense into a backpacking harlot comes within shooting distance of the master.) But the rest of the film’s verisimilar visions—fields on hellfire; a bird chirping hallowed communiqués; a Lazarus-esque resurrection—feel less like the fervent reveries of an artist than the scribblings of a former prodigy spinning his wheels. The promise Dumont once showed has ossified into unholy shtick.
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