|The Life of Jesus
(La Vie de Jésus)
I've always considered myself a somewhat intelligent individual — not
necessary intellectual — but "smart". Still, after Bruno Dumont's first feature
LA VIE DE JÉSUS/THE LIFE OF JESUS, I felt quite dumb. This is a film
that has won festival awards and garnered high praise in France. But for
the life of me, I just didn't get it. Dumont has said in interviews that
he wanted to bring "humanism to Christianity" by telling this story. But
whatever parallels he found in the story of a bored, unemployed
twenty-something Frenchman who suffers with epilepsy and Jesus
The film's story (such as it is) revolves around the epileptic Freddy
who passes his time making (graphic) love with his teenage girlfriend Marie
or riding a motorbike around the countryside with his friends. Freddy lives
with his mother, who operates a café that seems to have only one
customer (who is more interested in the mother than the food or drink).
The lives of the youths are disrupted by the arrival of an Arab family
who become the target for their venomous hatred. Making matters worse
is that the Arab son openly pursues Marie, creating a rivalry that sets
the stage for an act of violence.
Dumont has stated that as a child he saw someone undergo an
epileptic seizure and found something sacred in the incident. What
concerns him most is finding spiritual dimensions in physical realities and
the film is his way of recounting a passion play but he has stated that it
"is up to the public to look for Jesus in Freddy." Well, to me, that's a
cop out. There are some things that are impressive in the film. There are
scenes in which Dumont shows an almost painterly eye: Freddy and his
gang gathered around the sickbed of the brother of one of them; the
barren landscape of Flanders; a sojourn to the beach. But there are almost
pornographic sex scenes that are out of place (the youthful actors had
body doubles) and the boredom of the characters becomes interminable
to watch. Most of the actors are non-professional but Dumont does
manage to guide them to acceptable performances.
The audience with which I saw this film mostly reacted the same way
I did. There was a lot of head-scratching and blank stares. Most of us were
furiously flipping through the press notes to try to make sense of it.
Unfortunately, I still am.
MPAA Rating: NONE
Running time: 96 mins.
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.