Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. France, 2009. 3B Productions, Arte France Cinéma, C.R.R.A.V. Nord Pas de Calais, Le Fresnoy Studio National des Arts Contemporains, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, X-Filme Creative Pool, Cofinova 5, Canal+, CinéCinéma, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Contact Film, Cofinova 4, Soficapital, Région Ile-de-France, Région Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Screenplay by Bruno Dumont. Cinematography by Yves Cape. Produced by Rachid Bouchareb, Jean Bréhat. Production Design by Jean-Marc Tran Tan Ba. Costume Design by Alexandra Charles. Film Editing by Guy Lecorne. Toronto International Film Festival 2009.
Celine comes from an aristocratic family and is sent back to live in her palatial home in Paris after the nuns at her convent declare her unfit for their world. Devastated by this judgment, she meets a group of young men and becomes friends with one of them, Yassine, with whom she begins hanging around but with reservations: Celine tells Yassine that she loves God and no one else, and cannot be anyone’s girlfriend because she is devoted to her religious cause. Yassine introduces her to his brother Nassir, who is running a small Islamic religious class that he believes she will find interesting, which she takes up and has no idea that she’s actually getting involved in something much darker with devastating consequences. As is often the case with Bruno Dumont, a director who can only be loved by his most forgiving fans, the tale is told with as much lofty pretension and humorlessness as it is lacking in intelligence or nuance. There’s likely a message here about Christian paranoia of Muslims that is actually the result of naivete on the westerners’ part, Celine basically wills herself into being taken advantage of, but the lack of conviction in the main character makes the message both bluntly uninspiring and hard to swallow. For all she tells us of her love of God, she seems to have no actual knowledge of how to practice it (which I admit is possibly intentional), and perhaps there is a woman from this social class who would be permitted to have such ratty hair and a bad stoop, but she spends the movie questioning nothing, devoting herself to nothing and bursting out crying every time she interacts with people, and without the least bit of effort on the character’s part to challenge her own vulnerability she is pretty much impossible to watch. The Lars Von Trier Vulnerable Women genre that is used to describe the world’s evils has been done to death by this point, and here we see one of its most unintelligent examples.