Hors Satan (DVD) (New Wave Films)

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Hors Satan

New Wave Films / Bruno Dumont / 2011 / France

Running Time: 106 minutes

Region Code: Region 2 / PAL

Aspect Ratio: 16:9

Video: MPEG-2

Audio: French Dolby Digital 2.0

Language: French

Subtitles: Optional English

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Premiering in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, ‘Hors Satan’ (‘Outside Satan’), the philosophical and spiritually infused latest offering from the highly divisive and often discordant French film director, Bruno Dumont, proves no less as startling, unique and challenging as his earlier divisive works, with its complex, ambiguous and austere exploration of morality, spirituality and transgression.

“By the Channel, along the Côte d’Opale, near a hamlet with a river and a marshland, lives a unusual stranger who struggles along, poaches, prays and builds fires. A girl from a local farm takes care of him and feeds him. They spend time together in the wide scenery of dunes and woods, mysteriously engaging in private prayer at the edge of the ponds, where the devil is prowling…”

Perhaps the most significant challenge in Dumont’s cryptic and multifarious film comes in the form of deciphering the puzzle of just why exactly this strange figure looms silently across the bleak and mostly uninhabited landscape.

Known only as ‘le gars’ (the guy), the rugged, and utterly enigmatic central figure of the piece (played by the late David Dewaele, in only his second and sadly last feature film, after Dumont’s 2009 drama ‘Hadewijch’) spends much of the duration of the film slowly traversing the stark marshlands of the French Opal Coast in a seemingly aimless and almost arduous fashion.

However, through a wholly unconventional and emotionless relationship with Alexandre Lematre’s equally solitary ‘la fille’ (the girl), and a serious of bizarre, almost surreal events, Dewaele’s ‘le gars’ slowly transforms from a silent wanderer into a protective, guardian like figure to his new adherent, with Dumont cleverly and simultaneously contrasting a figure instantly capable of devastating, fatalistic force, with one of a healing, almost saintly persona.

Abstract artistry and arresting visuals aside, ‘Hors Satan’ is overall quite a demanding and challenging piece of cinema, which undoubtedly, as with the majority of Dumont’s work, many viewers will find tiresome and utterly perplexing. However, the slow-burning, fluency and poetic, lyrical quality of the film, combined with the profound, spiritual and philosophical undertones of the piece, clear symbolic references and minimalist dialogue proves effective and unexpectedly gripping, delivering an overall subtly compelling, studious and highly reflective work.

The distant and observational ‘Hors Satan’ may ultimately present a great deal more questions than it answers (and it is arguably that the film doesn’t provide any answers), but the mythical, near allegorical work, effectively grounded in reality by Dumont, deserves patience and time to allow the viewer to fully cogitate the various ambiguous tones presented.

Filmed in a protected area on the coast of Northern France (and effectively utilising the natural and highly atmospheric natural sounds and effects), where Dumont has resided for most of his life, Yves Cape’s alluring and hauntingly beautiful cinematography perfectly captures the haze-shrouded mysteries and eerie enigmatic qualities of the sparse and secluded, yet often breathtaking vistas, effectively enhancing the abstract, spiritual and isolated tones of the piece.

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Special Features:

The Noise of the Spider’s Footsteps – A short film from Dumont carefully exploring the sound editing process of the film (39 mins)

Trailer

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