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Man Bites Dog (1992, Benoît Poelvoorde, Rémy Belvaux)

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Controversial Belgian film which explores the limits of voyeurism and media intrusion. The daring and cutting-edge format, coupled with the disturbing theme, led to the film winning the Critics’ Week award, International Critics’ Prize and Special Jury Jeunesse Prize at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.

Ben (BENOIT POELVOORDE) is an ordinary guy with an extraordinary hobby: murder. The serial killer delights in his passion and soon has a fly-on-the-wall documentary filmmaking crew on board to record his killings. Gradually the crew become drawn into the psychopath’s pastime. They begin by becoming vaguely complicit as they watch Ben’s actions. Then they start collaborating, until the splatterfest becomes a free-for-all and includes some shockingly brutal scenes such as gang-rape and mutilation.

What saves this film from being run-of-the-mill exploitation is the intelligence and thought-provoking message behind it. The realistic and uncompromising scenes of violence are witty and presented as entertainment. Directors Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel and Benoit Poelvoorde challenge the audience to judge, even while they themselves are becoming complicit in the act of turning the violence into entertainment.

Time Out described it as ‘one of the most resonant, caustic contributions to the cinema of violence since Peeping Tom’. Far from being dated, the film is becoming increasingly relevant today when real-life TV is so popular and the boundaries between cinematic observation and intrusion are becoming ever more blurred.

production details
Belgium – France| 96 minutes | 1992

Writers and Directors: Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel, Benoit Poelvoorde

cast
Benoît Poelvoorde as Ben
Rémy Belvaux as Rémy (journaliste)
André Bonzel as André (caméraman)
Jacqueline Poelvoorde-Pappaert as Ben’s mother
Édith Le Merdy as Nurse
Jenny Drye as Jenny
Malou Madou as Malou
Willy Vandenbroeck as Boby
Nelly Pappaert as Ben’s Grandmother
Hector Pappaert as Ben’s Grandfather
Rachel Deman as Mamie Tromblon
André Laime as Bed-ridden Old Man
Sylviane Godé as Rape Victim (Martine)
Zoltan Tobolik as Rape Victim’s Husband
Valérie Parent as Valerie
Alexandra Fandango as Kalifa
Olivier Cotica as Benichou
Benoît Mariage as un journaliste