Saturday, September 15, 2007

TwentyNine Palms by Bruno Dumont

In TwentyNine Palms, the French director Bruno Dumont paints a haunting, visceral and brutal picture of masculinity and isolation.

Many people have commented on the allegorical meaning of the movie, that the movie is a commentary upon US and its foreign policy, but I perceived the movie at a more individual level, as the story of the primeval man.

The violence that is endemic between man and woman is brought into sharp focus when the violator and the violated both are men. The violent echo of heterosexual sex is present in the brutality that happens to David in the desert. The orgasmic scream and the facial tensions are frighteningly similar. The unwillingness to indulge in sex in an otherwise consensual relationship is taken to its logical extreme.

The scenery of the desert and of the vacant town and of the tiny hotel room accentuate the feeling of fear, barrenness, of a primtive animism, of loneliness and isolation and of being a team of mutual haters. The failure of communication is not just linguistic, it is an opacity between two human beings, it is an absence of empathy, more than anything.

The violence and the forced intercourses of the couple during most of the film are echoed in the final sequence. As in Irreversible, the violation is seen to be horrific when the knob of hedonistic selfishness is turned several degrees clockwise.

The symbol of masculinity, the red Hummer, is helpless when an even bigger one comes along and rams on its backside.

I have a few comments to make about the epilogue as well. The director himself has said that he considers the ending as a mistake. I agree, but only slightly. There is an interpretation of the ending which I found to be quite natural.

Why does David not go to the police? It is shame as well as a tacit understanding that what he has been doing to Katia in the last few days is less criminal only by a matter of degree. Several times in the film, David puts Katia in great danger and only now he realizes the fear that she must have felt.

His several violations and insensitivities towards her are brought in the limelight when he himself suffers the violation and the insensitivity.

He finally is aware of what violation is, and is shattered by this realization.

As he cannot bear this awareness of his own lower depths, he must therefore demolish the symbol of his guilt. The evidence of his crime.

And as he cannot live without being criminal, without being a hedonistic sexual animal in his life, he cannot go on living. I found the last part of the film a reflection of the short film Cutting Moments.

Recommendation: Must see.


neuroglyphix said...

Excellent. Your review is straightforward & concise. I came to the same realization/interpretation of the ending as an act of irreconcilable guilt.

Can you provide a link to where Dumont stated he considered the ending a "mistake"?

harmanjit said...

"He now admits that he got it wrong on Twentyninepalms. He should have edited it more tightly and cut out the epilogue. But the experience has not scared him away from making American films. On the contrary, he would dearly like to give it another shot."