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Andre Demester leaves his farm in northern France to become a soldier in a far off land. On his last night of freedom, he witnesses Barbe, his childhood friend and secret love, sleeping with another man. A twist of fate puts the two men side by side in combat where their undeclared personal war and the one they are fighting tragically merge. Left behind, Barbe, alone and wasting away, faces misfortunes of her own, while awaiting the soldiers' return.
Cannes Film Festival, Bruno Dumont, Grand Prize of the Jury
Cannes Film Festival, Bruno Dumont, Golden Palm Award
After his foray into America with the little-seen, critically reviled Twentynine Palms, Bruno Dumont is back on the familiar terrain of both northern France and the thematic concerns of his first two features, The Life of Jesus and Humanite. Like Todd Solondz, former philosophy professor Dumont tends to look at his fellow humans as if they are bugs in jars, but his existential storytelling, unlike Solondz's, is dramatically inert. Long, static shots, often gorgeously composed, surround his barely sentient characters. His view of humanity is reductive and merciless, a stance that has made him popular with Cannes Film Festival juries, which has awarded him its Grand Prize of the Jury twice for Humanite and last year for Flanders. There is no denying his talent or the power of his films. There is also no denying how unpleasant they are. Flanders is no exception...There are echoes of many other war films, from Full Metal Jacket to the more recent Jarhead, in that portion of the drama, as Demester and Blondel find themselves thrust into a hell they do not understand, but certainly help make.
"Flanders," by Bruno Dumont, won the Jury Prize at Cannes 2006. His "L'Humanite" won the same prize in1999. Both films require a special kind of viewer. I wrote of "L'Humanite" that it is "for those few moviegoers who approach a serious movie almost in the attitude of prayer." But we do not approach "Flanders" as if attending a religious service. We are its pastor, helpless to console it. It stands wet and lonely outside our church of the human race...This film has few tangible pleasures, such as some somber shots of Demester walking far away in a field. Its achievement is theoretical. It wants to depict lives that are without curiosity, introspection and hope. I watched with mournful restlessness. I admire it more today than yesterday when I saw it...The actors are all locals, unprofessional, but fully equal to Dumont's barren designs for them. I recall when Emmanuel Schotte, the star of Dumont's much more involving "L'Humanite," won the best actor award at Cannes, and all of my friends agreed that in his acceptance speech the actor seemed exactly the same as his character. Is that acting? Perhaps it is one goal of acting.
DVD, Widescreen, English, Subtitled
Koch Lorber Films Llc
A powerful film of suffering and sacrifice...
San Francisco Chronicle
Ferocious and caustic...jaw-dropping...
The New York Times
Evoke[s] as intense an experience of the natural world as a film can provide...
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