I saw Bruno Dumont’s L’Humanité at the weekend, and find that I can’t get it out of my head, not least because I can’t make up my mind about what I saw. Is the central character, Pharaon, a christ-like figure who takes on the sins of Joseph? (Which would explain his unromantic kiss if not his abusive face rubbing of the Algerian), or is he the perpetrator of a terrible crime. Is the irony that he seems to have the most humanity who commited the most dehumanising of acts?A lot of things are explained in the film if he is the rapist. It would account for how someone so dissociated as to appear “simple” can be the superintendent of police – he is dissociated because he cannot face the evil in himself. It makes sense of elements of the characterisation such as that Pharaon seems to walk and stand as if his hands are nothing to do with him. And also explains why he only seems capable, even forceful, when he is breaking up a group of disgruntled strikers.
L’Humanité also has a spiritual currency, dealing as it does with the nature of good and evil in a secular world (the church at the bottom of the road is an irrelevance), it is also asks questions about Christian idealism – with the central character a seeming christ-like innocent, who at times appears to levitate, and at others appears capable of making you afraid.
There is a lot about this film I am not sure I understand, and it definitely requires a further viewing, but the thing I understand least about it is how the audience at Cannes could boo the film when it won the jury award. Whether you like it or are disturbed by it, it undoubtedly is considered and worth an audience.