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Saturday, October 26

Outside Satan

Can violence lack motivation and consequence? Can violence simply occur because it is something that can be accomplished regardless of moral concerns? Bruno Dumont certainly thinks so. Outside Satan/Hors Satan (2011) is the most weightless picture I have ever laid my eyes upon. It feels as if it came from a realm in-between heaven or hell, let alone our mundane existence. Watching it compels you to scrutinise your moral, filmic or religious beliefs and shed your usual coat of comfort.

A local Girl (Alexandra Lematre) with Gothic looks, abused by her stepfather, feeds, accepts and seeks the company of a nameless drifter, the Guy (David Dewaele). Lost in the bountiful fields of the Côte d’Opale, the two wander around silently, part of the nature around them, to which they pray and bow. The landscape is rich and throbs with life, a true character itself in Dumont's picture. Noises and movements are very present and water, land , marshes, sea, forest blend together in harmony, accompanying the sparse dialogues of the characters. The Guy and the Girl share many silent, intimate moments, yet her every attempt to get sexually involved is at once rejected, as if his purpose at that very moment and exact place would be of higher significance. He lacks emotions and his face remains inexpressive at all times. He shots down the Girl's abuser, clubs to death an innocent pursuer and stones a deer.  

Salvation and punishment are granted with the same easiness and the Guy glides between the saviour image and the devil itself. His eyes are empty, his voice is coarse, as if words and the habit of speaking were futile and desolate to him. His moves like a dreamlike vision, coming from nowhere and going everywhere, bestowing his gift of life upon the Girl and saving her from her darkness. His Jesuslike face hides an endless void where there is no light, no hell, no expectations. There is a thin line between good and evil and it is a matter of perspective that Dumont offers to the viewer; things may seem abominable or graceful, depending on your point of view. Good and bad are simply shades of our personal gray.When things seem blurred or simply fading, a number of bordering events restore the balance.

The Girl (a newcomer of much promise) has an androgenic look that shatters any feminine image and serves its purpose; that of being a faceless, nameless victim of morality, religion, mentalities, life itself. Her expressionless face, silent movements and fast breathing make her look like a haunted animal with nothing to lose and nothing to gain. The Guy's gift to her is a purpose, a connection with her mother, a new beginning. As for the Devil/Jesus himself, Dumont made an inspired choice: David Dewaele has the face of a thousand words and the acting of a great performer.

This is a WTF movie that will leave you wondering about life as it is, questioning your limitations, lingering in doubt; the title itself is misleading. Is the Guy a protector of the world against Satan -and if this is the way the world is shaped, we dread to think about the Devil's playground- or is he the embodiment of sheer evil, a cruel, heartless creature that shares divine justice at his own pace and will? In whose hands do you place your faith and to whom do you give your soul? Our own gray larks in the darkness forcing us to acknowledge its presence and allowing it to rise every now and then. Comfort is our shrine and prefabricated truths are our garments; cinema is the exit door that sets us free.
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