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June 9, 2017

Hadewijch (2009)
Director: Bruno Dumont
Actors: Julie Sokolowski, Yassine Salim, David Dewaele

hadewijch_08.jpg (300×200)

Synopsis: A young novice (Julie Sokolowski) who goes by the name of 13th century mystic, Hadewijch, is expelled from her convent for unhealthy piety. Returning to her normal life under her civilian name Céline, she befriends a group of young Muslim men who share her devotion to a greater God…

Review: Bruno Dumont’s starkly beautiful aesthetic – on one level, highly naturalistic; on another, highly abstract – finds apt realisation in this compelling modern day fable about a self-possessed young woman who finds the unlikeliest of outlets in her quest for divinity.

Dumont’s painterly eye makes excellent use of his evocative rural locale outside of Paris where Céline slowly begins to alienate herself from the more demure nuns in her order, while also making mysterious pilgrimages to an isolated chapel on the top of a wooded hill where she can truly communicate her devotional angst. Set against this bleakly compelling backdrop, Dumont affects a highly subtle, almost dark fairytale air, to his drama. His plaintive ambience of no non-diegetic soundtrack (at least, until the symbolic climax), elliptical fades, and the way characters’ blank expressions conversely portray deep emotions (or, at the very least, abstract ideas), gives it this hypnotic edge – acting as mirror for Céline’s own “blind” journey into fundamentalism.

The ending is suitably ambiguous as Céline is presented with two possible moments of epiphany – both at opposite ends of the moral spectrum, yet strangely in keeping with the mature, apolitical, detached eye Dumont casts over his subject matter. (June 2017)

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