France, 2009, 105 minutes
Wed, May 05 / 9:15 / Clay / HADE05Y
Thu, May 06 / 6:00 / Clay / HADE06Y
Céline is deeply in love with God, as her pious prayers attest. Her mother superior, however, has concerns about the young woman’s confused acts of abstinence and casts her from the convent to rethink her devotion. Bruno Dumont’s fifth feature is a cinematic meditation on the boundaries of faith, especially in a multicultural contemporary landscape privileging the physical, carnal and material. Céline goes from austerely ecumenical quarters back to a Parisian family home as emotionally barren as it is antiquely opulent. She gains entry to more complex cultural conditions, family dynamics and moral quandaries when she meets Yassine, a young Arab who lives in a late-model high-rise housing project. He assuages her loneliness and wants her as a lover, but her vow of chastity engenders a sense of confusion that inspires impulsive acts of petty crime. She goes along for the ride, but is more captivated by his older brother, Nassir, a fervent Muslim with whom she engages in halting theological discussion and ultimately joins in acts of religious extremism. The action veers to the Middle East and back, though tidy denouements aren’t to be found, as Dumont probes big questions in his dramatic narratives. As in his previous films—notably the unflinching L’Humanité and Twentynine Palms—signature themes of alienation, racial and sexual tension are present, though here, Dumont’s deliberate pacing, unerring, beautifully framed close-ups and flashes of violence include a welcome new element: a peculiar sense of hope.
In French and Arabic with English subtitles. Presented in association with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.