A camera crew follows a serial killer/thief around as he exercises his craft. He expounds on art, music, nature, society, and life as he offs mailmen, pensioners, and random people. Slowly he begins involving the camera crew in his activities, and they begin wondering if what they're doing is such a good idea, particularly when the killer kills a rival and the rival's brother sends a threatening letter.Written by
Ed Sutton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To say this movie is disturbing would be an understatement. A massive, gigantic understatement! But it is also a display of film-genius.
The movie is filmed in Black and White and is presented as a "documentary" of a serial killer. The film crew follows Benoit, the killer, around town as he recites poetry, muses on welfare and housing reform, ponders philosophy, and ... well, kills. Totally randomly.
He explains to the film crew the lessons he has learned about killing, how to stay low key, who to go after, and what potential victims are a waste of time. For Benoit, killing is an art form, but not one that should be undertaken frivolously.
There are scenes when his lunacy are briefly pierced by humanity - he counsels one of the film crew not to kill, because once you start it becomes a habit. In another scene he laments having killed a suburban family, because they had nothing good to steal, as it turned out. He proclaims that "there should be a law against" killing for no good reason.
Those who shy from blood and killing - about the most graphical violence you'll ever see "documented" in a film - should shy from this movie. But anyone with an interest in a glimpse at the darkest side of human nature will appreciate this film, not necessarily for its story or its darkness, but for its ability to make us think, and open our eyes to human behaviour we don't like to admit might exist.
During the course of the movie you become totally numb to the act of killing (or maming or torture or rape or any violent crime). It is no longer shocking when he kills yet another victim. It has become commonplace. You just sort of scratch your head and wonder - why this one? why now? why him? why her? This mental numbness is made possible by the way it is filmed - as though it were a documentary. Not long into the movie you begin to wonder if this is real, or just a movie. I wonder if this is the kind of numbness that soldiers experienced in wars like WWI, entrenched and under constant fire - to where the violence around become the norm. I read a book once called "My War Gone By, I Miss it So" (that's a whole 'nother review) in which a war-writer kept returning to the front because after experiencing violence all around him day after day after day, he could no longer live without it. In Man Bites Dog the killing is Benoit's addiction, but we, as viewers become complacent to it. We have been numbed to where it is no longer disturbing. Makes you scratch your head and wonder: is such detachment from emotion and what's right really possible???
To add to the realism, all the actors play characters with their real names. The killer's mother and grandparents in the movie - are really the actor's mother and grandparents in real life. During most of the filming they were not told it was about serial killing, just that they were in a movie with their son. So they just act normal around the son they love, only to find out in later scenes that the whole film is about killing. Imagine the look of shock on their faces to find this out - to them the story then is no longer acting but real: they've just discovered their son/grandson made a film about brutal killings and the shock shows in their faces.
Is it real? Is it a movie? What defines the difference?
When I told him about this movie, a friend mentioned that "society,as a whole, is already numb to brutal killing and violence." He's right about that. But this movie is so ridiculously brutal and violent it is more a mockery of our society's complacence to violence, not an endorsement.
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