Bruno Dumont’s follow-up to La vie de Jesus confirms the director as an original, uncompromising talent. L’Humanite proved to be one of the most controversial films in competition at last year’s Cannes festival, where it won three awards, including two for its non-professional leading actors. Like La vie de Jesus, the new film is set in a bleak northern landscape peopled by inarticulate, lonely characters. The central protagonist, Pharon de Winter (Emmanuel Schotte), is a troubled police officer who seems to carry the suffering of humanity on his shoulders. Separated from his wife and child, and living with his irritating mother, Pharon is infatuated with Domino (Severine Caneele), a factory worker who’s having an affair with another man. The murder and rape of a local girl sees Pharon and his incompetent superior start an investigation. The film is not so much about the progress of the investigation as about the effects it has on Pharon, whose increasingly odd behaviour is as troubling as it is inexplicable. As in La vie de Jesus, Dumont goes way beyond conventional notions of psychological or dramatic realism in his brave depiction of the human condition.

France, 1999.
English subtitles.
Dolby digital stereo.
148 min.

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