This strange film is set on the northern French coast around Calais.A vagabond(David Dewaele)lives in the wilds of nature,with a small fire to keep him warm.His companion,a teenage dark-haired virginal goth(Alexandra Lematre), walks with him everywhere. They are both lost in a mirage of naturalism,supposedly beyond both good and evil,'hors Satan'. There is no back-story.The man gives to people what they want:to the young girl he is a protector,refusing to have sex with her and killing the guard who harasses her,he's also killed her step-father for abusing her at the start of the film.Police make enquiries about the murders. The goth lives with her mother.
To a hitch-hiker he brings sexual bliss,so she is frothing at the mouth. For the mother whose daughter is possessed he drives out the demons by raping the possessed young girl.He moves around his territory like a hunter-gatherer, but the territory is spiritual and he seems to commune with nature,kneeling,taking in the land and sky.He can knock at any door and get a bite to eat,as the people who live around here trust him.His young companion gets raped and dies and he mysteriously takes her body out into the landscape and lays it in a certain way and leaves it.The strange ritual is a form of resurrection.He is a holy fool or shaman,a phalli-centric worshipper of nature.
What do we make of Dumont's purpose here? He has taken the character who was marginal in his last film,Hadewijch, but was pivotal as the natural man in saving the central character from committing suicide, and he's made him the central character in this film,which has no music; you hear only the sounds of nature,breathing,walking,the wind, leaves, water and birds.The characters have no names.This is a new world of primitive,mythological fantasy.The objective lens pans the countryside, dunes,trees,marshes, hills,streams,capturing sunrise,magic-hour,the long shots are slow,panoramic, the dialogue minimal,impregnating us with the image like a Poussin or Constable painting.
The character can be seen as both evil and good,being one and the same thing.The characters are half-way between symbol and reality.Dumont is the atheist moving towards Bressonian subject matter(The Devil, Probably),bringing in religious themes. In this society we seem free of the ills of capitalism and modern technology,in marginal space,a magical zone,outside the normal rules that would apply in urban life in cities and towns.There is a serial killer rapist in the vicinity,who has a dog.When the police capture him,the natural wanderer takes his dog and walks on to his next location.This ends a trilogy of films made on spiritual themes. Absolutely astonishing.
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