Bruno Dumont is often lazily grouped in the New French Extremity movement, most definitions of which include Claire Denis, Francois Ozon, Alexandre Aja, and Gaspar Noé. While it does make the confusing business of foreign cinema easier to categorise, it’s pretty reductive to name a group of fine film-makers as a movement and leave it at that.
Bruno Dumont’s work, while often horrifying, isn’t horror. He makes sparse existential fables, using unemotional characters in an uncaring universe. Twentynine Palms was about two characters in a desert who undergo an astonishingly brutal attack, and the effect that it has on their relationship. Hors Satan is much more nuanced in its representation of good and evil, but still those pesky consequences remain.
The Guy wants to protect a teenage goth from the attentions of her abusive father, and in the process she becomes emotionally attached to him. While he never reciprocates the strength of feeling she shows towards him, always remaining honorable towards her, he does show himself capable of passion – he has a violent (but consensual) sexual encounter with a hiker and rapes a comatose girl, who wakes as a result of her ordeal. This leads to the film’s central thesis – what is good? Is The Guy good? Can good people do bad things for good reasons, and can good ever come from violence?
Obviously, being a Dumont film, there’s no right or wrong answer. What the viewer takes away from the film depends on the baggage they bring with them, and that alone will determine how much you enjoy this film. That said, this film isn’t really a film to be enjoyed, more one to watch and ponder over.