As an allegory of the thin line between religious fanaticism and devout faith, Bruno Dumont’s Hadewijch is a fascinating yet infuriating experiment.
As an allegory of the
thin line between religious fanaticism and devout faith, Bruno Dumont’s
Hadewijch is a fascinating yet infuriating experiment. With only flashes of
engaging and provocative theological debate thrown in amongst the ponderous and
frankly irrelevant pauses and conjectures, Dumont fails to fulfil on some of
the promising elements at hand here.
As a young trainee sister, Hadewijch is utterly devoted to
her religion but when she begins to feel the presence of God she embarks on a
journey of self punishment and suffering. Expelled from the covenant and thrown
back into her life as a minister’s daughter, she becomes Céline again. Her
relationship with a young Muslim man from the Parisian projects opens up the
films questioning of Céline/Hadewijch’s beliefs. Open about her devotion,
bordering on besotted obsession, to Jesus, Céline extols that she does not want
a relationship with anyone other than Christ and will remain a virgin by
choice. Though her apparent depression stems from a perceived unrequited
After meeting Yassine’s brother Nassir, a religious
discussion group leader with radical views, she is caught up in the plans for a
violent religious attack. What exactly Dumont is trying to point out is murky.
Does he believe that devout Christian and Muslim faiths are in themselves
inherently radicalised? How exactly Céline is so easily caught up in all of
this is also left largely unclear. Is she so directionless and lost that she cannot
Sokolowski is impressive in her first role but her character seems as
confused and as lost as the film’s motives. The rather hackneyed use of a
largely forgotten strand about an ex-convict – who whilst on parole as a bricky
at Céline’s convent comes to her rescue – is also a misjudgement. Just as
someone points out to him in the film: “you didn’t kill anyone”, so he’s not a
bad chap after all. In the end though, the symbolism of someone impure acting
as a saviour to someone so in search of spiritual enlightenment feels
unfulfilling and obvious.
The fact that you’re never sure what exactly Dumont is
trying to say and only gives the impression that he is unsure himself.