When “L’Humanite” was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999, its director, Bruno Dumont, came away with the Grand Prize of Jury and its leads, Emmanuel Schotte and Severine Caneele, won the best actor and actress. The wins weren’t without controversy, though. This is one strange, oddly hypnotic film that is more about emotion and moments than narrative.
At the center of the film is Pharaon De Winter (Schotte), a melancholic and simple police superintendent who lives with his mother. At some point he’s lost his wife and baby – although we never learn what happened – and now he pines for his lusty neighbor, Domino, (Caneele), who is already involved with the immature nob (Philippe Tullier). Because she pities him, Domino invites Pharaon to tag along the couple to the beach, to the bar and to her apartment. Already overwhelmed by the inherent cruelties of life, the detective gets pushed even closer to the edge when an 11-year-old girl is found raped and murdered. Part crime story and part slice-of-life, for lack of a better word, this film is the antithesis of everything Hollywood can offer.
For 140 minutes you watch ennui-filled people as they cope with the banality of their lives. What’s most impressive about “L’Humanite” is how even though you fight to switch it off, you can’t. There’s something almost mesmerizing about this film, which not surprisingly comes from the mind of a philosopher. The DVD offers a short interview with Dumont, just don’t expect it to give you any answers. Indie fans will eat this one up.