The title of Bruno Dumont's La Vie de Jesus (The Life of Jesus, 1997) may catch the eye of those like me, but its biblical themes are far more subtle than the title would immediately suggest.
La Vie de Jesus is about Freddy, a rebellious teenager from a deprived area of rural France. He hangs out with his mates, has sex with his girlfriend (Marie), moans at his mum and plays the drums for his marching band. He also has a form of epilepsy which limits his employment possibilities and leaves him reliant on his mates to go out.
Whilst the film caused a degree of controversy when it was first released for his close-ups of penetrative sex, it's actually the racism of Freddy and his mates that proves the most uncomfortable. Yet when the group of them racially abuse, what they assume is, an Arab family, the son (Kader) decides to try and woo Marie - an act that eventually leads to him being beaten by Freddy and his mates and left by the side of the road.
There are three Jesus-related images in the film which gran the attention and remind us of its enigmatic title. The first is as the brother of one of Freddy's friends lies dying in the hospital. Another friend spots a painting of the resurrection of Lazarus and tries to draw Freddy's attention to it. "Have you seen the picture" the friend asks "its the story of a guy who came back to life". "Shut up" Freddy replies. There's seemingly no place amongst this group of friends for Jesus the bringer of life.
Yet a little unexpectedly it's a shot of the beaten and bloody Kader that provides the film's next Jesus-esque image and we're reminded that Jesus was not the one that we/they expect(d). He was a despised outsider. That said, shortly afterwards there's a shot of Freddy (above) that also seems to chime with traditional images of Jesus.
A friend of mine, Mike Leary, has written a short piece on this film and its use of the name Jesus in the book "Light Shining in a Dark Place" and the relevant section can currently be read on Google books.
Labels: Other Films