11 February 2013 | chaos-rampant
The faint hum of something wrong
This is one half of a great film, which makes it all the more frustrating in the end.
Life is interminable and drab, faces are sullen, love is carnal touch, work is thankless routine, and there is something inexplicably wrong with the world, a shadow that moves and covers the sun. The film begins with a man lying down in the fields as if to die and transcend, but something calls him back; a horrible crime has been committed. (he is the police superintendent of a small town)
The notion is that something is wrong with the man, a good-natured but childlike individual. We go on to find that he had a woman and baby, and lost both—we never know how. There is just the loss. The violence. The memory of an earlier, brighter life. The new crime has been committed against a young girl, raped and killed in the fields. The memory of the girl (both girls lost) is carried in the paintings of his painter grandfather, in particular one that depicts a young girl in the countryside.
As in Haneke, at the core of it is the faint hum of something wrong in the cosmic mechanism, something broken.
There is a pretty great scene that explains this. The superintendent has crossed the channel to England to question passengers of a train who may have seen something the day of the murder. Sure enough, they did see a man and girl that day, which only confirms what we know. But nothing of actual help beyond simple appearances that would explain deeper; the train was moving too fast, they can't be sure.
And that is followed by our guy peering down below in the airport parking lot, where a fight has broken out—again the puzzling violence, but helpless to know or do anything about it.
But that is all—relatively simple. Oh, there is a lot of wandering about streets and idly lounging on front steps, there is pretentious provocation in exposed vaginal shots. Some coarse, everyday sex. All that is neither here nor there. There are the scenes of him watering plants and looking out to the fields, cultivating life as he bides his time. It's a fine film, but dangerously close at times to affectation, it is composed after all as something between spontaneous sketches of life, and self-enclosed painterly reduction.
Dumont does it better than most, to be sure. But as the case nears completion, and more and more time flows like a painter pours his paints, simply because there is room left for it, it becomes apparent that this could have been more.