Outside Satanby Brandon Edmonds / 23.07.2012
87% of Americans believe angels exist. Idiots. In Outside Satan, tres cool French director, Bruno Dumont, whose drifty overlong 29 Palms has the best surprise male rape in cinema, gives the awful EU the debased avenging angel it so richly deserves. A stubby bow-legged drifter (David Dewaele) who sleeps rough and has the smooshed, runty face of a very bad boxer. He’s trash, really. A gypsy. Drinks beer, boinks backpackers and literally sucks malefic spirits from the throats of pre-adolescent farm girls. Raging veldt fires disappear at his command yet he’s down to earth and French enough to enjoy a nice bit of baguette dipped in café au lait.
Symbolically, the film opens with him receiving bread. The sacrament. The body of Christ. A hot moody girl gives it to him. She too has a face ready-made for cinema. An affectless, pale, sort of small town Goth chick in black underwear whom Helena Bonham-Carter better pray her husband, Tim Burton, never lays eyes on. Turns out she’s been fiddled with for years by a step-father we, thankfully, never meet before the angel just shoots him. Dumont makes us watch as he and the girl fail to react to the murder. This is a respectful nod to both the deadpan off-kilter greatness of that mother of all hot young killer couple movies, Terrence Malick’s oh you gotta see it 1970’s masterpiece, Badlands, with Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen; and the work of Dumont’s most glaring influence, the very great Robert Bresson, who pioneered a strange statue-like brand of non-acting, running his cast through take after take until they were too exhausted to do anything but be.
“What should we do now,” our drifter asks the girl. “I don’t know,” she says. It’s that kind of film. Aimlessly circling itself in a rural nowhere that could be the present or the past. A place so backward it takes ages for the cops to arrest him. As if a vagrant wouldn’t be rounded up right away. And this angel is no angel. He’s as wilful, jealous and violent as a certain deity of the Old Testament. You know who you are, God.
When a skinny forest-ranger hits on the Goth and steals a kiss, he beats him and leaves him for dead. When the girl is found killed, we suspect him. He didn’t do it. He resurrects her. This is an angel for now. His morality is underemployed. Meaning doesn’t motivate his actions or help us understand them. He just does stuff. Alone, in nature, he cries out and prays to cows and the dusk. Simple, eternal things. Hey why not? He’s as confused and right and wrong as any of us. But deadlier. I believe in him because he totally wouldn’t care either way. At the end, walking the road with a killer’s dog at his side, I like to think he’s on his way to Greece, to Kabul, to Detroit. Any place that needs a miracle.