Entertainment » Movies

La vie de Jesus

by Greg Vellante
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Jun 26, 2019
La vie de Jesus

One of the most interesting aspects of character-driven cinema is that in an instant your opinions on a protagonist can change. In Bruno Dumont's 1997 debut feature, "La vie de Jésus," nonprofessional and one-time actor David Douche takes on the role of Freddy, an aimless youth who occasionally suffers from fits of epilepsy. One of the first moments we see from Freddy's life is a seizure. We also witness Freddy and his group of friends gathered around the deathbed of one of the friend's brother, wiping away tears as they say goodbye.

The movie makes an immediate attempt to draw the viewer in, and allow them to empathize with these individuals - particularly Freddy, who at times displays such an affecting tenderness that you couldn't blame the viewer for relating with the character on an emotional level.

But then things change. Freddy's characteristics become more complicated as we encounter his gang hurling racist comments at an Arab man their age who is simply enjoying lunch with his family in a modest café. The film explores shocking developments stemming from this incident, especially when the Arab youth begins pursuing a relationship with Freddy's girlfriend, with whom he shares a passionless and crude sexual connection.

The further the film progresses, the harder it becomes to connect with Freddy. His tenderness transforms into ugliness, going beyond racism in ways that are unforgivable and reprehensible. But Dumont studies Freddy with a nonjudgmental eye, leaving the moral interpretations up to the viewer.

New to The Criterion Collection, "La vie de Jésus" is presented in a new 4K digital restoration, approved by Dumont, with an uncompressed stereo soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Bonus features include:

• New interview with Dumont
• Conversation between Dumont and critic Philippe Rouyer from 2014
• Excerpts from two 1997 episodes of the French television program "Le cercle de minuit"
• Trailer
• New English subtitle translation
• An essay by critic Nicholas Elliott

"La vie de Jésus"

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