Beyond Hatred

"Excellent"

Beyond Hatred Review


An elliptical, moving film about a cruel murder and the agonizing road a family takes to get past its effects, Beyond Hatred is a fine kind of documentary that doesn't feel for a second like it has to follow the rules and is all the stronger for it. Director Olivier Meyrou begins by telling the story of François Chenu, a 29-year-old gay man who in 2002 happened across a trio of skinheads in a park in Reims, France, looking for an Arab to bash. Spotting François, they demand to know if he's gay, he responds proudly in the affirmative and bravely tells them what cowards they are. For not denying his nature and illustrating theirs, François was killed. Two years later, the skinheads are about to go on trial and François's family is a miserable wreck, still trying to wrap their heads around the death.

Meyrou doesn't come at his story head-on, preferring instead to loop around it and circle in, denying us the easy escape of the crime-trial-resolution paradigm. It's a film of cycles and repetitions, where the Chenu family -- pensive, tear-prone, and chain-smoking -- seems forever trapped in the crime. As the trial looms, they appear stuck and unsure how to proceed, unable to forgive but equally unwilling to go on hating. One of them refers to their post-murder life as "the hatred on which you rebuild yourself." The trial itself is never shown, though Meyrou includes copious footage of the lawyers involved as they discuss the case (one of the skinheads' defense lawyers is particularly fascinating, being an Arab himself). The facts come out piecemeal, parceled out like bits of bread sprinkled on a darkening trail and leaving viewers to pick their way along.

Needless to say, this isn't an easy film: Meyrou's preferred approach is the long take, for instance parking a camera at the spot of François's death (now peaceful, with joggers) while an off-screen voice tells details of the case. It all has a cumulatively lulling effect, if a nightmare could ever be described so.

Throughout all this we never get to know François. The unwitting victim whose death started all this, he remains a mystery, no warm recollections by family, no poring over old family albums, no bringing the beloved son back to life in a mother's loving words. It's a divisive tactic, given the particularly senseless manner of his death, and the bravery he showed amidst it -- François seems like the kind of man you would want to get to know, even in retrospect, via a movie screen. By withholding the memories, keeping us from getting to know François, or even his killers (never shown), Meyrou is making a conscious choice, and a smart one. Just as François's family is fumbling in the dark, wanting to get past it all and even feeling some sympathy for the killers (much is made of their miserable childhoods and despicable parents) but not knowing how ("You can understand but not always excuse"), so too viewers are stranded, just like any person who has lost a loved one. Beyond Hatred provides most of the facts but no answers, showing instead the dead, thousand-yard stare of a long-grieving mother, which is closer to the heart of the matter than any artificial sense of "closure" could ever be.

Aka Au-delà de la haine.

Considering the past.



Beyond Hatred

Facts and Figures

Run time: 86 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 14th March 2007

Distributed by: First Run Features

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 17 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Olivier Meyrou

Producer: Christophe Girard, Katherina Marx

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