Reviewed by Nick Atkin

Hors Satan (Outside Satan), a hit on the festival circuit this year, is an examination not just of the relationship between mankind and nature but that of good and evil. 

Directed by Bruno Dumont, the film moves at a snail’s pace through an uneventful script but still captivates, loosely focusing on a drifter sleeping rough in the rural countryside of Northern France. 

The pensive film opens on central character The Guy (David Dewaele) praying on his knees in front of a beautiful and powerful sunset to immediately emphasise the chain of command. 

In accordance, barely a word of dialogue is spoken in the opening twenty minutes, reminiscent of Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. 

CinematographerYves Capeem powers the landscape with long takes that show just insignificant the characters passing through it are, tracking out to stand back in awe of monumental hillsides.

 Although he sleeps outside, the drifter is at odds with nature, repeatedly hitting a deer over the head with a rock and hiding in the bushes to escape a torrential downpour, as if he is afraid of nature’s judgement. 

The film hinges on a murder, an emotionally-fragile local girl (Alexandre Lematre) enlisting the help of The Guy to shoot her abusive stepfather. 

Dumont then explores their complicated relationship. The Guy shows no genuine affection towards her yet is dementedly protective, battering to near-death another man who tries to kiss her. 

He conveys little emotion at all– even in such outbursts of violence he is nonchalant. The camera often lingers on his facial expressions, as if willing him to give some kind of impassioned reaction to the events unfolding around him. 

His human contact is similarly stripped of feeling, replaced by a rough, animalistic al-fresco sex scene with a passing tourist that is difficult to watch. 

It is hard to know what to take away when the credits roll, a feeling exacerbated by the silence that accompanies them pierced only by intermittent sounds of tweeting birds. 

Perhaps, like the drifter we see leaving the town behind on his way to the next one, we are only spectators passing through, discouraged from making any emotional attachment.

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.