A few years back when shooting a film of my own I decided to mess around a bit with pacing. I had one impatient character waiting for another and I decided to let the audience watch the character wait for about a minute. I even had him check his watch about halfway through. I was hoping to create a sense of anticipation: If the audience is watching their surrogate character waiting then they too are waiting. Maybe they would even check their own watches. Not out of boredom, but out of empathy for the character. Bruno Dumont's film L'Humanite consists almost entirely of characters waiting. You could argue that they are thinking but it seems unlikely that a filmmaker can make his audience think by showing a character think. The connection needs to be made with more concrete stimuli. The thinking should come later. Dumont, however, seems to buy into a pretentious theory that suggests showing long unedited takes of people walking down the street or staring at the sky without context. The nominal story of L'Humanite is of a detective disturbed by a truly disturbing crime: The rape and murder of an 11 year old girl. The girl's body and genitals are displayed bluntly and shockingly, but lacking any real context they seem like just so many more posed stances in a film full of posturing. I feel like I might have more patience for Dumont's style had I not recently reviewed two films that handle the same subject matter much better: Lars von Trier's flawed, but interesting The Element of Crime and Bertrand Tavernier's terrific Coup de Torchon. Both of those films feature morally uncertain law enforcement agents faced with an immoral and corrupt world. Where L'Humanite portrays this conflict with tortured silence (stretched way beyond the point of meaningfulness), the other films create extremely sophisticated landscapes filled with decrepit images and sinister characters. VIDEO:
The video on L'Humanite is nonanamorphic widescreen and looks good. The cinematography is good, although the bleakness of the images gets very repetitive. AUDIO:
The audio is serviceable French stereo with optional English subtitles. EXTRAS:
The only extras to speak of are a trailer and an interview with Dumont. The interview is very strange and may actually have been faked, with the interviewer edited in later. Dumont is as pretentious as his film would indicate, talking about how he hates film, but needs it and other such nonsense. FINAL THOUGHTS:
While not up to some of his European peers, Dumont's film did receive a good deal of acclaim and will be of interest to fans of French film. It left me cold and uninterested, but some have suggested that repeat viewings are required for full impact. Perhaps I'll give it another shot and post an addendum to this review.
Gil Jawetz is a graphic designer, video director, and t-shirt designer. He lives in Brooklyn.E-mail Gil at firstname.lastname@example.org