Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Heaven and Earth

Once again Bruno Dumont steps into his known favorite realm of Pas-de-Calais with Jeannette. The unusual, mysterious domain bordered between its blue/green palette of sky and land. In P’tit Quinquin it was this same soil which drove the bodies out of the axis of equilibrium, which got bitterer by each twist and turn along the way, and the nature as the haunting force seemed to be determining as a curse. In Ma Loute, the strange magnetism of the land made the bodies fall into the ground, to roll over and even suddenly by losing its gravity make the inhabitants fly. But what about his new medieval pastoral piece about the childhood of the saint Jeanne d’Arc? Here, Dumont even minimizes its territory to some certain topographical points; as if these are the mystical places that the forces of heaven reveal themselves to petite Jeanne d’Arc.

A medieval pastoral piece oddly and lively infused with shivers and ecstasy of heavy metal music in a very Straub-Huillet mise en scene and the placement/movements of the bodies. The archaic and the contemporary collide with each other, and as the blue of the sky reflects in the eyes of Jeannette, the forces of the human comedy of absurdities erupt and submerge the film. Here, between the forces of the earth and sky - naturalism and otherworldliness - not only the bodies fall into trance, dancing, jumping, twisting and turning, the feet stampede, the heads start headbanging and hands begin rapping but also the camera is forced out of its axis, stumbling and staggering to one side or cutting and sticking to the ground through a close-up of the rejoicing feet. The absolute otherworldly madness is the ultimate key to Dumont’s kingdom of heaven (or shall we say circle of hell?)

The final scene, yet again in the very same vein of Dumont’s two previous films, end with a feminine/masculine pair of adolescent Jeanne d’Arc and her uncle heading toward the divine mission. And ironically, for Dumont a single hilarious act of falling is sufficient to problematize the rivalry between the heaven and the earth. The natural fatalistic forces of the landscape seem to win; Jeanne d’Arc fades into the natural backdrop, and although the film ends here we all know about her destiny where the worldly forces bring the ethereal immateriality to its knees. But hopefully not in Dumont’s; because as far as it’s related to the realm of Dumont, the otherworldly immaterial cinematic forces always triumph over the materiality of the film.  

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