105 minutes

A controversial acquired taste, even among hardcore auteurists, French director and philosophy expert Bruno Dumont pulls off a beauty with his fifth feature, a disturbing look at misguided religious devotion. Hadewijch does feature all the hallmarks of mr. Dumont's elliptical, opaque austerity, but his usual bloody-mindedness is harnessed to excellent effect in the story of the “stations of the Cross” of Céline (newcomer Julie Sokolowski), a postulant nun whose search for absolute devotion and surrender to God delivers her into the hands of Muslim terrorism.
     One of the essential problems with mr. Dumont's work is that his conceptual approach often works against traditional narrative conventions – you really have to see the film to “get it” - and while Hadewijch has a stronger narrative construction, a lot of what makes it stand out lies in the treatment. That is to say, in the way the absence of music (other than two reinterpreted Bach pieces), mr. Dumont's unhurried setups and imperceptibly slow zooms, his painterly framings and close attention to detail convey the description of Céline as a child of privilege whose faith isn't so much a quest as a demand, whose hunger for the absolute love (in keeping with her inspiration, 13th century Belgian mystic Hadewijch of Antwerp) becomes a need to melt into the all.
     Heady stuff, to be sure, and the director's exacting approach only reinforces the demands it makes on the viewer and the core of darkness and light at its heart, not least in the elliptical leaps the film makes between its “stations” and in the reasonably unequal performances that aim for spontaneity and emotion rather than perfection. But Mr. Dumont believes in film's power to challenge the viewer, and the moving and powerful Hadewijch is proof enough of that.

Starring Julie Sokolowski; Karl Sarafadis, Yassine Salime, David Dewaele; Brigitte Mayeux-Clerget, Michelle Ardenne, Sabrina Lechêne, Marie Castelain, Luc-François Bouyssonie. 
     Directed and written by Bruno Dumont; director of photography (colour by GTC), Yves Cape; production designer, Jean-Marc Tran Tan Ba; costume designers, Annie Morel-Paris, Alexandra Charles; film editor, Guy Lecorne.
     A 3B Productions production, in co-production with ARTE France Cinéma, CRRAV Nord-Pas de Calais, Le Fresnoy National Studio of Contemporary Art; with the participation of ZDF in collaboration with ARTE and Herbstfilm Produktion; in association with Cofinova 5; with the support of the French National Centre for Cinema, Île-de-France Region, Nord-Pas de Calais Region; with the participation of Canal Plus, Cinécinéma, Canal Horizons, Contact Films. (French distributor, Tadrart Films. World sales, Pyramide International.)
     Screened: distributor advance DVD screener, Lisbon, June 4th 2011. 


Popular Posts