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The Life of Jesus (1997)
"La vie de Jésus" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  4 June 1997 (France)
7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 1,396 users  
Reviews: 17 user | 25 critic

A social movie about life nowadays in the north of France. Freddy and his friends are all unemployed. They try to pass away the time by wandering around on their motorcycles and by ... See full summary »

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Title: The Life of Jesus (1997)

The Life of Jesus (1997) on IMDb 7.1/10

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15 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Credited cast:
David Douche ...
Freddy
Marjorie Cottreel ...
Marie
Kader Chaatouf ...
Kader
Sébastien Delbaere ...
Gégé
Samuel Boidin ...
Michou
Steve Smagghe ...
Robert
Sébastien Bailleul ...
Quinquin
Geneviève Cottreel ...
Freddy's mother (Yvette)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Suzanne Berteloot ...
Infirmière (as Suzanne Bertelot)
Jeanne ...
Freddy's mother (Double for nude scenes)
Sophie Ruckebusch ...
Majorette
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Storyline

A social movie about life nowadays in the north of France. Freddy and his friends are all unemployed. They try to pass away the time by wandering around on their motorcycles and by directing their aggressive feelings towards Arabic immigrants. Freddy is in love with Marie, a cashier at a local supermarket. When she is proposed by Kader, an young Arab man, Freddy and his friends have an idea: they decide to punish Kader for what they call "such a provocation." After they have raped another girl, Marie finally commits to Kader, which seals his fate. Written by Philippe Petit <Philippe.Petit@pobox.com>

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Drama

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4 June 1997 (France)  »

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The Life of Jesus  »

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2.35 : 1
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never anything to do in this town...
20 August 2004 | by See all my reviews

With this first movie, the filmmaker Bruno Dumont signs a work of talent and establishes himself as a real author. It is all the more extraordinary as he never studied cinema and he doesn't belong to any film school. It doesn't prevent his movie from being reminiscent of the Dardenne brothers' cinema in its treatment: few dialogs, nearly no music, Dumont doesn't judge or criticize his characters. Neither does he judge their actions, doings and he doesn't condemn the murder of the Arab teenager. Nevertheless, Dumont has got a quality he constantly uses throughout his movie: a wide sense of observation. And sometimes, he lets express his sense of suggestion. In another hand, Dumont may be a genuine filmmaker, be that as it may, he's got a common point with Robert Bresson another French filmmaker: he hires no professional actors. We can take this characteristic for another asset in "life of Jesus" because it gives more strength and neutrality to this movie.

The title of my review is extracted from a song by Steve Albini's former band Big Black: "Kerosene" in which this "enfant terrible" screams: "never anything to do in this town!". It's exactly the same thing in the film. During nearly one hour, nothing is happening. We only see Freddy and his mates wandering again and again in the little town of Bailleul and its surroundings given they are on the dole. I have previously written that Dumont's opus contained few dialogs. Dialogs are almost useless here. Freddy's countenance and his pals' are sufficient enough to communicate the spectator their boredom. There are a few moments of happiness: every Sunday they play in the municipal brass band or they are going by the sea. Furthermore, Freddy takes part in competitions of chaffinch singing. But these short moments of happiness don't change anything in their lives and don't bring them hope. In another extent, when Freddy has sex with Marie, their sexual relations are very primary. It is also interesting to notice that to emphasize their humdrum life, the director uses a recurrent shot that regularly comes back throughout the film like a sort of leitmotiv: a rural or urban landscape with the gang in the middle distance or in the background. Then, gradually, this dull life turns to drama with two dramatic events: Freddy's gang rapes a young girl and they kill an Arab teenager. What shocks is the quasi-indifference of the gang. How did they arrive there? We can put forward several explanations. I will retain this one: maybe constant boredom destroys any judgment and makes the gang narrow-minded enough to lead them to commit a murder.

Bruno Dumont also achieved a tour de force in the cast. All right, the actors are no professional but they reveal themselves highly convincing. With Freddy's gang, the director draws a gallery of listless or racist characters deeply rooted in their land of the North of France. Of all these characters, we could argue that Marie is eventually the sole positive one since she doesn't want to meet the gang again (and especially Freddy) after the rape of the young girl and she accepts the friendship of the Arab teenager, Kader (let's admit it not for very long). As for Freddy, he is a simple-minded but not really clever person. Moreover, Dumont lets us suggest his easily influenced side, particularly in the scene when they rape the young girl. His friends encourage him to act.

At last, this movie contains a particularly harrowing sequence: when the gang visits one close relative of them who's dying of AIDS.

One last thing and I will finish with it: why did Bruno Dumont give his movie a title in which there's no question of Jesus? It is a mystery but it doesn't spoil the strength of this perfectly mastered movie.


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