Flanders: Sexual Sneak Peak At Low IQ Characters
By Prairie Miller
While US movies about country folks have succumbed to more dabbling in caricature than even those depicting Italian-Americans, rural characters may not fare much better as far as screen image goes, in France. That is, if the films of Brunot Dumont (Humanity, The Life of Jesus) are any indication.
Dumont's latest sexually voyeuristic, low IQ take on the denizens of farm country, is Flanders. A rather dull and generally silent young farmer Demester (Samuel Boidin) takes time off from his chores in the field to wordlessly drop his pants and get intimate with the equally speechless, accommodating local nymphomaniac Barbe (Adelaide Leroux) behind some convenient bushes.
After parting ways without the least expression of affection, they meet up later at a bar in town where Barbe makes moves on Blondel (Henri Cretel) and takes off with him. In rapid succession, these two men leave for the military to an unnamed war in the Middle East (shot on location in Tunisia) and end up in the same infantry. Among their group activities are brutalizing the local population when not enjoying an assault on one of their own, a black soldier; killing some boy soldiers after waiting impatiently for them to just stop screaming and die; shooting through the head for absolutely no reason, a peasant wandering by on a donkey; and stripping naked and gang raping a woman they encounter in the desert. For the latter deed, one of them has his private parts chopped off in revenge by the native militia, without benefit of anesthesia. This gruesome moment is oddly satisfying.
Meanwhile back on the farm, Barbe is with baby, gets an abortion, and then lands in a mental hospital. First Barbe gets it on in a barn with the only young man left in town who hasn't gone off to war. Soon Demester returns from battle, the sole survivor of his battalion, and confesses under extreme duress on the part of Barbe that he could have saved her backup lover Blondel from capture and certain death, but had second thoughts about seeing his sexual rival come back to claim her. This candid moment of truth inspires a second mutual confession, that these two withdrawn misfits truly love one another, and will presumably live happily ever after.
I'm guessing you could call this stream of consciousness cinema. That is, lots of narrative detail meandering nowhere in particular. Dumont's gift for dramatic expression of physical space and sensuously conceived landscape is undeniable. If only he had attached a coherent story to his vividly evoked sense of surroundings.
DVD Features: Director's Masterclass, and trailer reel.
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