Directed by Bruno Dumont
Runtime: 105 min.
Dumont is not into virtuousness. His studies of spiritual struggle in
the gang movie The Life of Jesus, the murder mystery Humanité and now
taken by Celine (Julie Sokolowski), a middle-class French girl who
enters a convent to pursue her faith—pushes spirituality to the extreme.
His characters do startling, unnerving things before achieving grace;
nearly lost, they confound traditional Christian expectation. This isn’t
an era that rewards devout popular culture, yet Dumont’s approach also
challenges skeptics; they cannot indulge their lack of faith when
Dumont’s epiphanies eventually do arrive. The most unlikely—and
sometimes unlikable—characters receive the ultimate manifestation of
journey goes through religious devotion that is actually a form of
fanaticism. In the boldest provocation since Todd Solondz’s Life During
Wartime, Dumont links her struggle to the fanaticism of Muslim
terrorists. Hadewicjh is
really a story about psychological and spiritual displacement; through
religion, Dumont gets at the irrational beliefs that define contemporary
political intransigence. If our left-biased media was truly
intellectually serious, Hadewijch, Life During Wartime and Marco
Bellocchio’s Vincere would
have been the most discussed and dissected movies this year because
they go scarily deep into the essence of political motivation.
examines true politics when the Mother Superior who expels Celine
advises, “There is no need to be cut off from this world in order to be
close to God.” Celine’s self-righteousness is disparaged as, “You’re a
caricature of a nun,” which is a rebuke put in sharper context when she
falls in with an extremist Iman, Nassir (Karl Sarafidis), living in the
banlieues. “We can see Paris from here,” he says with the Eiffel Tower
in the distance, a potential target.
critique occurs within Dumont’s transcendent spiritual poetry. His
rigorous visual style is also a study in Bresson-like detachment and
mystery. Celine is first seen trudging on slanted ground through rough
woods, contrasted with an ex-con (David Dewaele) doing construction work
in the cathedral courtyard. In the city, she befriends Muslim outsiders
and dates an autistic boy named Yassine (Yassine Salim) who can’t make
eye contact, a perplexing figure of God’s lowliest. At their first
rendezvous, they watch a shirtless punk band perform before a transfixed
congregation. Bizarre and haunting, the scene hails Bresson’s great
youth elegy The Devil Probably.
from austere images of a wintry world to remarkably beautiful images of
post-rainfall lushness. From desolation to revelation, humanism becomes
visible in every living thing. Eccentric auteurs claiming profundity
come and go, and so does Dumont’s inspiration, but the power of Hadewijch’s climax proves he is the real thing.