PFS Film Review


In Humanité, directed by Bruno Dumont, an eleven-year-old girl is brutally raped and killed in Bailleul, a working-class town in the French province of Nord-Pas-de-Calais near Dunkerque and the Belgian border. Police superintendent Pharaon De Winter (played by Emmanuel Schotté), an unattractive man in his thirties, is assigned to the case and cannot at first imagine how anyone could commit such a heinous act. Pharaon, according to the film, lost his wife and child a few years earlier (presumably in an auto accident in which he was the driver) and lives with his mother, who is a widow herself. His best friends are a twenty-three-year-old factory worker Domino (plaved by Séverine Caneele) and her busdriver boyfriend Joseph (played by Philippe Tullier). Distressed by the horrible rape, which activates sad memories of his recent loss of a family, he turns to Domino for emotional support. When he goes to her room in the house next door, he views a scene in which Joseph is having rough intercourse with Domino and then exits. Intuitively, he associates the rape with the sex scene that he has just witnessed, but he goes about the task of tracking down the rapist methodically albeit melancholically. Witnesses provide little of substance, but the facts all point to Joseph, who as busdriver was the last person to see the eleven-year-old alive as she left the bus to return home from school. Pharaon watches sports on television, tends flowers in a garden, dines with his mother, takes a trip to the seashore with his two friends, and donates a painting to an art gallery in Lille (his grandfather is the famous painter of the same name), but finds no solace and cannot arrest his friend. Domino crudely offers sex to assuage Pharaon's sadness, but he wants love, something that she cannot offer. Publicity about the case throughout France prompt the authorities in Paris to assign an investigator from the provincial capital of Lille, and they are able to solve the crime with dispatch. For Americans accustomed to action- or dialog-based movies, Humanité is quite a challenge. The cop does not get his man. The scriptwriter provides no verbal intellectualization to tell us what new thoughts he wants us to ponder. Instead, there are many long walks by Pharaon with nothing said. Dumont's aim is to force the filmviewer to imagine what the police superintendent must be thinking so that we can be drawn into the pain and must come to terms with the way in which the advances of our civilization have made evil so readily accessible. MH

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