Bruno Reidal: an impressive first film on a terrible incident [critique]

In 1905, a young peasant from Cantal, in love with God, turns into a bloodthirsty monster. From this not trivial news item, Vincent Le Port signs a work where brutality over dispute with grace.

1905. In the depths of Cantal. In other words, a thousand places from the vast world. Bruno Reidal, the unfortunate and/or evil hero of this first feature film by Vincent Le Port, resides here, somewhere between heaven and earth, between the Holy Spirit and the dry land. His mystique is embodied in the body of a hunched man-child with a thin voice. On the one hand there are the origins – the small French peasantry well in their own juice – and on the other, seminarian studies which offer a life in the highest heavens. Except that Bruno Reidal is a cold monster with blood everywhere and badly channeled delirious urges. On September 1 of the same year, he was arrested for having very brutally murdered a 12-year-old boy by decapitation.

The story is true and in its time made headlines in Cantal and elsewhere. Exactly seventy years earlier, the Norman Pierre Rivière, his soul brother, had slaughtered his mother, his sister and his brother with a sickle. Reidal then finds himself before judges and especially doctors, who ask him to reflect on his act and, to help him find the light, to put his story in writing. The exercise will be beyond comprehension. Because Bruno Reidal is certainly a monster but also a superior spirit, a born writer. His prose demonstrates extreme lucidity. If Pierre Rivière has become a textbook case thanks to Foucault and his seminar at the College de France and then to René Allio’s film, Bruno Reidal has disappeared from collective memory. Vincent Le Port brings it back to life today. The filmmaker spotted with his short films (The Gulf….), plunged into the memories of the young seminarian to extract a text said in a voice-over devoid of affect by his interpreter (the astonishing Dimitri Doré). The Bresson white voice imposes itself in overhang. The frail and fragile body of Reidal advances in a flashback like a puppet prisoner of everything: frame, decor, thought, body. So he lowers his head like a wounded angel. What’s going on in his head? The frustrations are not so much social as psychological and physical. The man-child masturbates frantically. For someone who dreams of God, it is blasphemy. We have to get back together. Here, then, is the story of an impossible renunciation. Discovered at Critics’ Week, this Bruno Reidal struck the spirits as much by the grace of its staging as its oppressive brutality.

Of Bruno Reidal. With Dimitri Doré, Jean-Luc Vincent, Romain Villedieu … Duration: 1h41. Released March 23, 2022

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