Remy Belvaux

7.4 Man Bites Dog (1992)

Remy Belvaux (Belgium, 1966) debuted with some shorts.

He co-directed with Andre Bonzel and Benoit Poelvoorde the black-and-white mockumentary C'est Arrive' pres de chez vous/ It Happened Near Your Home/ Man Bites Dog (1992), a terrifying document of candid rational cruelty, a bizarre horror movie that is both surreal and sadistic. The film is also a veiled, allegorical "je accuse" against the media: initially curious, attracted by the chance of making a sensational documentary, the crew ends up encouraging his murders and becoming accomplices. The serial killer is a mentally insane person, but the crew members are rational beings, fully in control of their actions, and, nonetheless, they end up behaving the same way. The orgy of blood is an orgy of amoral self-interest. The film is also an allegory for the whole history of the human race, which has always glorified its mass murderers, hailing them as heroes, conquerors and prophets.

A man strangles a woman on a train. We see him later near a river as he has stuffed the corpse with heavy matter. He talks to the camera, as if someone is interviewing him, and explains that otherwise bodies float up to the surface, and he talks as an expert who has done it many times before: Benoit is clearly a serial killer. He then walks into the family store and introduces the cameraman to his mother and his grandparents. His mother tells how Benoit was affectionate and sweet as a child. Another day he tells us that he usually starts the month killing a postman. Besides stealing pension money, he also learns which pensioners have money. Then we see rapid footage of several killings. Then he's in the cafe of his friend Malou conversing with the "interviewer" about women. He jokes on camera. He doesn't look like a psycho at all. He then takes the crew to visit his friend Jenny. He introduces the crew to her and we learn that the crew consists of three people. The crew later films him as he shoots a black security guard. He boasts that he once buried two Arabs in a wall nearby, but facing Mecca, to respect their religion. A member of the crew, Remy (played by Remy Belvaux himself), drags the body away. Benoit asks him to pull the dead man's pants down to check the size of his penis. Next, we are in a neighborhood where the city is relocating lonely older people, and he criticizes at length the city's architectural plan. He knocks at a door, an old woman opens, and he tells her that they are a television crew working on a reportage about loneliness. He notices that she is taking pills for a weak heart and so he simply scares her with a gun: that's enough to cause her to die of a heart attack. He finds her money easily, first under the table cloth and then under the mattress. All happy, Benoit invites the crew to a dinner and we learn the names of the other two: Andre' (played by Andre' Bonzel himself), and Patrick. They all find excuses. But another day they accept the invitation. Over dinner Benoit tells the crew that he is willing to finance the documentary because he knows that they don't have enough money. He then recites his own poetry. He stops when he throws up, probably for food poisoning. We then see him at a cocktail reception in an art gallery with his girlfriend Valerie. The crew asks Valerie if she knows of Benoit's occupation and she says she does and she doesn't care: everybody has to make money one way or another. At home the two play classical music for piano and flute. He jokes that he was trained as a musician but then changed instrument: the gun. We then see him hijacking a taxi with the gun, shooting at another car, shooting the taxi driver of his car... He then enters a building and chases someone who escaped his rampage. The crew follows him as he searches the building and they keep quiet to help him. He stops to discuss two pigeons that are mating and recite some of his poetry again. Suddenly, while the crew is helping him search for a golden bracelet that he dropped, someone shoots and kills the soundman, Patrick. Remy grabs the equipment and the cameraman keeps filming. Benoit finds the shooter and kills him, and then consoles Remy about the loss of his soundman. They walk outside. Remy helps Benoit move the body of the taxi driver into the trunk. Later a heartbroken Remy talks to the camera about Patrick, who was about to become father. Benoit then chooses a nice suburban home for his next slaughter. Remy drives him there. They chat amicably waiting for dark. Then Benoit breaks into the house, causing the wife to have an epileptic fit. Then he kills the husband by smashing his head against the bathroom sink. He invites the soundman to come closer with the microphone and then twists the head of the dead man to record the noise. The couple's child wakes up and screams finding the strangers in the bathroom. The child runs away. Benoit chases him and captures him. Benoit asks Remy to hold the little boy's legs and arms. While Benoit is smothering the little boy with a pillow, Remy simply asks him whether he kills many children. The following day they are exploring an abandoned house when someone shoots at them. Benoit shoots back and kills someone whom he recognizes as an illegal immigrant, Ricardo. Then Benoit finds three men hiding in a corner: they too are a camera crew. He kills the cameraman and then hands the gun to Remy and Andre' who each shoot another one. Then Benoit returns to visit his mother and his grandparents at the shop. Benoit shows the crew granpa's amateur video, an erotic silent film in which some women dance half naked. His mother tells him about the horrifying murder of the suburban family. We see quick murder scenes in which he kills other people. Obviously she has no clue that her son is a sadistic serial killer. We see Benoit on a boxing ring with a young woman, a janitor, and her child, Benichou, behaving like she is his sex slave and the child is his own child. But then the scene changes to Malou's cafe, where Benoit gets drunk. There is a new member of the crew, Vincent, who is filming Benoit, Remy and Andre' as they drink together. Kicked out of the cafe, the drunk trio breaks into a house and find a man and a woman who are having sex. Benoit holds the naked man at gunpoint while Remy and Andre' take turns at raping the woman. Then it's Benoit's turn to rape her. Then the camera indulges on the scene after the couple is murdered: the wife lying on the bed with the entrails sticking out of her belly, the husband shot dead on the kitchen sink. We then see Benoit disposing of the bodies in the usual cistern. Valerie shows Benoit a dead animal and Benoit explains to Remy that it's a warning from the brother of an Italian whom Benoit has killed. Benoit boxes on the boxing ring and is beaten badly and taken to the hospital. His mother and granpa come to visit him. The old man in the bed next to Benoit's shits in his pants. Benoit calls the nurse and the old man, instead of being grateful, insults the nurse who is washing him. Released from the hospital, but still wearing a cast around his neck, Benoit gets a surprise: a birthday dinner with Valerie, Jenny, a male friend and the crew (we only see Remy and Andre', the other one is filming the dinner). While they are chatting and joking, Benoit suddenly shoots the male guest, then resumes eating as if nothing happened, even though Valerie and Jenny are spattered with blood. The others are silent for a while but then resume the dinner ignoring the dead body. At the end of the dinner Remy and Andre' carry the body to Benoit's favorite dump, the cistern, but it has been drained, and one can see skulls and bones from the previous victims. A hysterical Benoit instructs Remy and Andre' to bury the body. Then we see a postman staring at the camera and Benoit attacking him from behind but the postman escapes. Then we see the film rewinding: it's Benoit watching it and analyzing where he made a mistake. Benoit is angry with the crew that they didn't help him. Benoit is arrested and sentenced to prison (presumably the police connected the unsolved murders). Somehow he escapes and calls Remy. They look for Valerie and find her dead in her bed, impaled with her flute. They drive to his mother's shop. He walks in alone and comes out vomiting and sobbing: his mother has been killed, and impaled with a broom. Someone is taking revenge on him. Benoit decides to leave town but first he returns to the abandoned house. There someone shoots him dead while he is reciting one of his awful poems. They also kill Remy and the cameraman. The camera lies on the floor and we see the soundman trying to escape but being killed too. The camera keeps rolling until it runs out of film.

Belvaux committed suicide in 2006.

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