Bruno Reidal: Confessions of a Killer (2021) Semaine de la Critique, Cannes 2021

July 12th, 2021
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Vincent Le Port | Cast: Roman Villedieu, Jean-Luc Vincent, Dimitri Dore | France, Drama 101′

Some things you never forget. And for young Bruno Reidal it was the traumatic annual pig slaughter at his family farm.

Competing for this years Camera d’Or this classically told period drama is the feature debut of Vincent Le Port who shows with dispassion and meticulous detail how a killer is made from early childhood through his introverted sullen central character evocatively played by Dimitri Dore.

Mulling over themes of guilt, masturbation and Catholicism, there’s actually a touch of the Bruno Dumont’s about this elegant and captivating period chronicle that gracefully explores the grim genesis of murder (Jean Luc Vincent also appeared in Camille Claudel 1915 and Slack Bay).

Based on the real writings of a convicted murderer at the turn of the last century, the film opens in 1905 with a gruesome murder, the camera focusing on the strenuous efforts of young Bruno as he decapitates a child – we later see the headless body lying arms up-stretched in its leafy grave.

Bruno (Dimitry Dore) then gives himself up to the authorities denying to doctors that he a criminal or insane. So despite the serious nature of his crime, the investigating doctor Lacassagne (Vincent) puts the pasty-faced boy into a bare room and orders him to write down his life story. Meanwhile an invasive interrogation by a team of doctors forms the backbone to a lushly dramatised chronicle of Bruno Reidal’s life.

Bruno was born in rural Raulhac, Cantal (Auvergne) on June 12,1888, one of six children of modest but intelligent farming stock, his formal and undemonstrative parents were hard-working, his father would die before  Bruno even reached puberty. Taking over farming duties one summer’s day Bruno suffers a coup de soleil. And this along with the traumatic annual pig slaughter at the family farm makes an horrific impression on the boy’s rather sensitive frame of mind, seemingly turning his thoughts to matters macabre. All this is negativity is enforced by an unloving early sexual experience – he is interfered with by an old wayfarer one day in the fields and this becomes the blueprint for his obsessive need to masturbate connecting sexual pleasure with violent intent. His mother then sends him away to a Catholic seminary where the ascetic religious education sees Bruno continually haunted by terrible thoughts of killing and torturing his fellow students, and of course, masturbating. And then he meets fellow student Blondel.

The verdant rolling countryside of the Auvergne provides a glorious pastoral setting for this serene and solemnly paced drama, contrasting wildly with its cruel and murderous narrative and perverted central character of Bruno who we feel a strange pity for despite his cold and calculating personality. MT



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