Hors Satan (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner03/01/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 109 mins

Intriguingly directed and strikingly shot, this is a typically provocative drama from Bruno Dumont with superb performances from David Dewaele and Alexandra Lematre.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Bruno Dumont, Hors Satan (meaning Outside Satan) is set in a coastal French village and stars David Dewaele as an unnamed, scruffy-looking drifter who seems to commune with nature and who mysteriously gets handed food whenever he knocks on someone's door. When a troubled teenager (Alexandra Lematre) starts hanging around with him, he helps her out by shooting her abusive stepfather; he later cures a catatonic young girl (Juliette Bacquet), apparently by sexually abusing her.

The drifter and the girl (also unnamed) continue to spend time together, wandering aimlessly around the village and pausing occasionally to admire or perhaps worship the idyllic natural landscapes. Later, the drifter savagely beats a guard (Christophe Bon) who had made advances towards the girl and he also has a startling encounter with a female backpacker. However, when tragedy strikes, the drifter takes an altogether different kind of action, with equally shocking results.

The Good
David Dewaele is perfectly cast as the ambiguous drifter, since his face very rarely displays emotion (like everyone else in the film, he has minimal dialogue) and his eyes give nothing away. Alexandra Lematre is equally good as the troubled teenager; her wants and desires are, at least, less ambiguous – she wants rid of her stepfather and she wants to be loved, yearning for (but not receiving) physical affection from the drifter.

There's very little plot to speak of, so every scene is open to interpretation, just as it's impossible to really get a handle on who the drifter is; he seems kind-hearted and his intentions seem to be good, but while the stepfather may well have been pure evil (we never see him interact with the girl and indeed only glimpse him briefly, in long-shot, before he's killed), we know the guard doesn't really deserve the savage beating he gets. At any rate, the film is beautifully shot, courtesy of Yves Cape's striking cinematography, which makes impressive use of the various coastal and woodland locations.

The Bad
As fans of Dumont's previous films (Hadewijch, L'humanité, Twentynine Palms) will already be aware, the director has a tendency towards what might be termed hardcore arthouse and Hors Satan is no exception. There are no easy answers here, indeed, there's barely a plot, yet if you're the sort of person who likes searching for and unpicking oblique religious references, then this is unquestionably the film for you.

Worth seeing?
By turns touching and shocking, Hors Satan is never an easy film to watch, but the performances, the thought-provoking imagery and Dumont's provocative direction all ensure that it's worth seeing, particularly if you're an arthouse devotee.

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Content updated: 20/10/2017 00:23

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