Glasgow Film Festival 2022 Review: Bruno Reidal: Confession of a Murderer

Bruno Reidal: Confession of a Murderer from filmmaker Vincent Le Port is an asserting glimpse into the mind of a murderer. In taking an unsettling true crime case from rural France in 1905, Le Port gives us an asserting insight into the cripplingly tense build-up to a truly chilling little-known murder whilst delving into the complex psychology of its perpetrator.

Writer-director Le Port examines the case of Bruno Reidal (Dimitri Doré) who murdered twelve-year old Francois in rural Raulhac in the year 1905. A panel of criminal psychiatrists attempt to get a sense of why this apparently shy, pious peasant boy would commit such a crime, requesting that he record his memoirs as a means of understanding the motivation for his behaviour.

Le Port begins with the brutal, commanding opening of the crime taking place. We see implied struggle as Bruno takes the last breath from his victim, before appearing blood-soaked at the door of the village Gendarmerie. Much of this crime is kept off screen to begin, yet the impact is nonetheless shocking. It is immediately clear that the first-time filmmaker is something of a provocateur with Bruno Reidal refusing to shy away from the barbarism at the heart of this tale. The filmmaker begins to chronicle the events which lead up to this crime with Doré narrating his memoirs or revisiting his turbulent upbringing and initial violent thoughts to the panel.

Le Port crafts a portmanteau of childhood trauma through Bruno’s near philosophical voice which lacks any sense of remorse or guilt regarding his crimes. Capturing the moments that built-up to this crime, Le Port injects a simmering tension into proceedings with audiences well aware of the unsavoury outcome that these respective traumas inevitably lead up to. There is a clear influence of René Allio’s Foucault adaptation I, Pierre Rivière, Having Slaughtered My Mother, Sister and Brother… in Bruno Reidal’s story, with Le Port tasking the audience the role of trying to piece together the psychology and adverse childhood experiences that lead to Bruno’s crimes.

Doré is a commanding presence as Bruno as he captures his late teenage years. From his hunched posture, downward gaze and awkwardly nervous body language, the actor explores the simmering melting pot inside Bruno as he attempts to battle with his urges and desire for bloodlust. Linking Bruno’s fantasies of violence with sexual fixations and compulsive masturbation, adds further psychological groundwork to the feature with Bruno driven by a near sexual compulsion to kill – despite an apparent lack of conventional sexual desire for either women or men.

Le Port delves into Bruno’s childhood and his distant relationships with his cold mother and educated yet strict father, the unsettling experience of watching a pig killed for a traditional feast (one of the film’s most unpleasant scenes thanks to the pained animal’s screams), and a chilling scene where Bruno is assaulted by an abusive shepherd. Bruno’s fixation on violent fantasies involving his primary school classmates begin to creep in, crafting a further sense of the young boy’s violent psychological tendencies – as well as his academic intelligence.

The attempted suppression of Bruno’s tendencies become one of the main features of Le Port’s narrative – with viewers clearly aware of the way that this internal struggle will conclude. Delving into the young man’s distraction through entering seminary with the intention of joining the clergy – Bruno’s urges continually bubble to the surface. It is a fascinating battle watching Bruno attempt to suppress these desires with a sharp pressure in witnessing these creep back up to the surface – particularly as the young man returns to his rural French home on his summer vacation.

Michaël Capron’s cinematography captures the story of Bruno Reidal in an earthy, naturalistic manner, whilst Arnaud Lucas’s production design convincingly transports us to rural France in the early 1900s.

Vincent Le Port encourages us to engage in the debate between nature and nurture in his depiction of the grisly true crime of Bruno Reidal. A chilling and compelling lead turn from Dimitri Doré captures this with an unflinching authenticity and boldness, whilst the filmmaker’s provocative visual style ensures this is not an easy film to forget.

Bruno Reidal: Confessions of a Murderer plays as part of the Glasgow Film Festival. Find ticket details here.

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