Never one to shy away from controversial subject matter or to give audiences an easy ride, Bruno Dumont willingly walks into an ideological minefield for his latest, Hadewijch. Though the term “provocateur” has undoubtedly derogatory connotations these days in critic speak, perhaps from the omnipresence of directors selling volatile wares (many dare not call an admired filmmaker a provocateur, whether it’s Breillat, von Trier, or God forbid, Korine, for fear of reducing him or her to the level of trickster), it’s neither wrong nor reductive to name Dumont as such. This is because in the past decade Dumont has proven time and again, from his maddening Bressonian murder mystery L’Humanité to his road-movie horror show Twentynine Palms (a far more precise and frightening depiction of male-female relations as bloody nightmare than Antichrist) to his gender-war war film Flandres, that he’s undoubtedly, unashamedly more interested in who’s watching, and how they’re watching, than who’s on screen. Eliciting a viewer response is paramount to this philosopher and professor turned filmmaker. The result of of course, has been constant audience alienation and ultimate resentment; he’s been accordingly targeted as misanthropic, detached, and rigid.
That I find Dumont’s work to be the opposite of all of those easily tossed-about adjectives matters little since everyone will take away something different from his purposely obtuse, narratively ambiguous works, in which character motivation is muffled and catharsis is severely complicated. Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of Hadewijch.