Directed by Bruno Dumont. 1999.
As the film opens, a man is walking in the distance alone across a grassy hill. Suddenly as the camera moves in for a close-up, he collapses in the mud and just lays there for a while. Is he dead or alive? Did he commit the crime? In the next scene, he is sitting in his car listening to harpsichord music and we discover that he is a policeman talking in a barely audible voice to his superior. The film cuts away to the battered body of an 11-year old girl, her torn and bloody vagina graphically shown as the police gather. Pharaon maintains the same anguished, enigmatic look on his face throughout that makes us uncertain if he is the murderer or the Second Coming of Christ. We know very little about him except that he "lost" his wife and child a few years ago, but it is never made clear whether he lost them or they lost him. Signs of passion or involvement are rare but come with a sudden ferocity, as when he is walking across the crime scene and starts to scream at the top of his lungs, a sound drowned out only by the passing Eurostar train.
L'Humanite is an
involving and disturbing film that you cannot feel lukewarm about. It is
profoundly moving but often agonizingly slow and virtually unwatchable
in some of its graphic details (you may never want to have sex again after
watching these mechanical exercises). The climax of the film is as perplexing
as the beginning with an ambiguous resolution that I'm not quite sure what
to make of. What I do know is that I felt as vitally alive watching this
film as I did the first time I saw Leolo by Jean-Claude Lauzon.
L'Humanite is a breath of fresh air on the turgid cinema landscape
and Dumont is as honest and challenging a director as I've seen in quite
a long time. His film continually forces us to question what we are looking
at and, as the title suggests, keeps bringing us closer and closer to the
core of what makes us truly human.
Book Reviews | About Us