International Writers Magazine: Review
A lot of the humour
comes from Benoitss narration and pondering on a variety of subjects,
including food, art and the best way to dispose of bodies. Of course this
humour is counterbalanced by a bit of the old ultra violence. The laughs
always feel guilty, as if youre revelling in the violence itself.
However, youre constantly seduced by the easygoing, amusing Benoit.
And that is the films masterstroke.
Bites Dog (C'est Arrivé Près de Chez Vous) 1992
Directed by Remy Belvaux
Starring Benoit Poelvoorde and Remy Belvaux
Benoit is well-spoken,
well-dressed, often witty and loves to quote poetry. He also likes
to kill people. He regards this as a sort of pseudo-job, as he makes
his living from the money he finds in the homes of his victims.
Benoit also acts as an affable narrator, as his exploits are being
filmed for a documentary.
Remy, the director, and sparsely seen cameraman André. There
is also a running Spinal Tap-esque joke throughout the film, as
the crew work their way steadily through a number of soundmen. Yes,
I did talk about both serial killers and jokes in the same paragraph
and thats because Man Bites Dog is a true black
A lot of the
humour comes from Benoitss narration and pondering on a variety
of subjects, including food, art and the best way to dispose of
bodies. Of course this humour is counterbalanced by a bit of the
old ultra violence. The laughs always feel guilty, as if youre
revelling in the violence itself. However, youre constantly
seduced by the easygoing, amusing Benoit. And that is the films
The film is a very strong satire, which works on several levels. The first
would be the contrast of humour and violence. Your own guilt, at laughing
at the dark humour in some ways condemns you for complacency towards the
violence that is happening onscreen. The film aims to shake the bourgeois
to the very core. Its also a frightening prediction of modern societys
obsession with reality television. Man Bites Dog suggests a type
of extreme underground reality show.
It is shot in a Cinéma-vérité style, black and white
throughout, no musical soundtrack and with very naturalistic camerawork.
At points, it almost seems like a real documentary. The whole film lampoons
television shows that make icons out of people who have no discernible
reason to be stars. When the film was made, there wasnt much evidence
of this, but you only have to look at the success of ex-Big Brother contestants
to see that there is apparently some demand for the lives of these people
to be documented.
Not only does Man Bites Dog condemn its audience, it also condemns
the medias sensationalism and glamourisation of violence in a way
also attempted in Oliver Stones Natural Born Killers and
Wes Cravens Scream series. However, this film surpasses both
of those due to the scenes where we gradually see the film crew get involved
with Benoits exploits. At first they are tentative; Remy helps to
load bodies into a car, but eventually, in a pivotal scene reminiscent
of A Clockwork Orange the entire crew joins Benoit in the rape
of a young woman as her husband stares on powerless. The effect is to
unnerve the viewer but also to make them question just how involved the
media should get with the particular subject by taking it to a disturbing
By all accounts, this film should be a hard, visually punishing slog.
But due to the exceedingly well acted main character of Benoit, we are
unable to tear ourselves away. He is a very Hitchcockian villain, in the
vein of Anthony Hopkins in Psycho. He is watchable for his unpredictability,
bouncing from playing the piano to throwing bodies into a quarry. He is
witty with his observations, a quick thinker. His life appears to have
almost instant gratification.
Man Bites Dog is a terrifying film, because despite the horrific
violence frequently dispensed by Benoit, we continue to watch because
of the way his personality welcomes us in. It exposes our hypocrisies
as we observe a character that has absolutely no right to be an icon,
elevated to one, and then become unable to tear ourselves away from his
© Paul Rumble November 2007
shl60629 at port.ac.uk
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