Well, here’s another 2 1/2 hour long introspective French drama–stunningly well filmed, with gorgeous wide-screen cinematography and an insightful script. And yet “L’Humanité” is so colossally dull that if this doesn’t put you into a coma, nothing will.
The central character is a plodding, expressionless cop (Schotte), named Pharaon after his famous painter great-grandfather. He lives with his mother (Allegre) and is utterly obsessed with their neighbour Domino (Caneele), a hard-as-nails, sullen, sallow factory worker whose boyfriend (Tullier) is a macho bus driver. The film opens as Pharaon discovers the brutally murdered body of a young girl then begins an investigation, all the while thinking about Domino.
With the murder case at the film’s center, at least there’s a gritty plot to keep us interested. And the small-town setting is intriguing; all the townsfolk know each other, yet life seems to be passing them by like the high-speed Eurostar trains that roar past them. But Pharaon is a complete mystery–Who is he? What’s happened to make him move in slow motion (we gets hints or past tragedy?) And most importantly, what or who does he really want? Our frustration is only worsened by the film’s plodding pace and, most irritatingly, Dumont’s self-indulgent direction (unnecessarily long takes, irrelevant scenes and characters). Edited down, this could be an intriguing cop drama cum interpersonal thriller. But no, it just drags along dropping far too many clues as to the killer’s identity. At least Caneele and Tullier give interesting performances, but their characters aren’t the ones we’re supposed to care about, and Schotte is just too stunned to take even remotely seriously.