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Film review: Hors Satan, David Dewaele stars in Bruno Dumont's rural allegory


Bruno Dumont, a safe bet for France's most enigmatic auteur, here presents another inscrutable allegory of rural life. David Dewaele plays the nameless seer-cum-drifter who moves in mysterious ways and saves a whey-faced goth girl (Alexandra Lemâtre) from her abusive stepfather.

The pair become inseparable, mooching about the woods and appearing to commune with the sky, but it's hard to know what hold they have on each other. Does she fully comprehend that he's a psychopath as well as a miracle-worker?

Much of the film consists in long meditative takes of figures tramping across the Normandy countryside, beautifully lit by cinematographer Yves Cape, though in narrative terms it feels pretty starved. Dewaele's close-mouthed stranger with the thousand-yard stare could be Jesus, and he could be the Devil.

Dumont doesn't give us much help in deciding which, and plainly regards it as his right to place huge demands on his audience - the most obvious of them being patience.