Saturday, 2 March 2013

hors satan (w&d dumont)

Hors Satan was the final instalment of my month's subscription to Cinemateca. Life here is somewhat roller coaster. Periods of not-a-lot followed by periods of extreme activity. At least the process of going to the cinema got a look-in. Where it's a staple part of life in London, in Montevideo it is less so. People I know tend to go to the theatre more. The theatre is a place to meet and catch up. The fact I'm working in the theatre here probably influences this. But the London habit of catching an early afternoon matinee doesn't exist. Subtract that and social outings and its clear that there's going to be less cinema in your life.

In Jan/ Feb, however, when I was still relatively idle, I took out a monthly subscription to Cinemateca, the four screen film club. The screens themselves are not of the greatest quality, but the range of films is catholic. Hors Satan cropped up in rep, after Marley. It's the second film of Dumont's I've seen. Apparently his latest is less low-fi. This is a film with a seemingly minimal budget, dependent on a high concept and some intense acting. A young man arrives in town, the northern French coast which always reminds me of Sartre's Nausea. (A book whose cult reputation seems to have ebbed in my lifetime.) People lead sparse, spiritually impoverished lives. They take walks on the sand dunes and become possessed. The young man fucks the devil out of them. The women have an exorcism moment during sex and then they recover. Or is he actually the devil? It's not entirely clear.

The premise is schlocky and Catholic (capital C). However, Dumont's narrative style remains as sparse as the film's surroundings. The long takes and snail-like progress of the plot help to counteract the salaciousness. Dumont immerses us in the tedium of this world, where nothing happens and if something does happen it has to be extreme in order to break the surface of this ennui. Rape, murder, possession. There's an element of a conjurer's trick to the film (as is the case with almost all dramas which deal with the theme of Mephistopheles, from Marlowe to Potter). Is this a subtle treatise on good versus evil, or is it merely a pretentious, exploitative dirge? I tended towards the former, but then I've always enjoyed a bit of painstaking Gallic existentialism. 

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