Based on the written confession of 19th century French killer, Bruno Reidal. The murder puzzled everyone as Bruno was a quiet, intelligent, devout seminary student.
After my hand-wringing over Nitram, I pretty much give Bruno Reidal a free pass on account of it being really old and everyone involved being dead. Even though, if you think about it, all the same arguments apply. And Bruno Reidal is way more explicit than anything in Nitram. Like, WAAAAYYYY more explicit.
Beautifully shot, the film has all the scrumptious detail of a period drama, despite its dreary subject. We follow Bruno’s narration of his own life story. Born as a peasant in rural France, he tends his family’s cattle in the fields. He shows academic promise and is sincerely religious, so he is chosen to go to seminary school on a scholarship. Despite starting off behind all the other boys, who are from well-to-do middle-class backgrounds, he studies night and day and goes on to win 7 prizes in his first year.
But there is something no one knows. Since the age of 6, Bruno has been fantasising about killing other boys. The thoughts are obsessional and pleasurable, and once he comes to sexual maturity, erotic. He is a sexual sadist, reaching climax without thought of sexual interaction, but only violence. It is this that has driven his piousness, as he prays daily for God to rid him of this desire, and his academic achievement, as industry distracts him.
Because he is so articulate, you see his mindset clearly. He is devoid of empathy for others. His attachments are very shallow, his inner life predominates. His biggest relationship is with God, and he desperately wants to be obedient to God and reach Paradise in the afterlife. He feels guilt at his inability to abstain from masturbation but not really at the grief he’s caused by his killing. He frequently thinks of suicide but is prevented by fear of damnation.
The crime itself is super explicit. Like, seriously. And there is an unnecessarily explicit child molestation scene elsewhere in the movie. The director clearly had no qualms.
It’s a really well put together drama, but I realise the subject matter won’t be for everyone.