Truth in absence. That’s what I was thinking about while watching Beyond Hatred, POV’s stirring doc about the murder of a gay man by skinheads in France, which airs this week (check your local listings). There’s a very deliberate way this sad story is told. The fact that it’s in French, with subtitles, enhances the almost cerebral way the filmmakers follow the impact on the family of the victim.
I was most moved by the long shot of an empty park at dusk, the light fading in the trees. It is foreboding at the same time that it is utterly mundane, as we hear the sister talk about finding out about her brother’s death. As joggers run by, the shot of the park, where the crime occurred, goes on so long, it almost has an anti-cinematic quality. Eventually, the lights come on in the park and the sister breathes heavily. The camera doesn’t move; it feels like one of those Warhol real-time movies. (Read more in the filmmaker interview, where Olivier Meyrou explains why he held that single shot for eight minutes.)
The doc is very effective, and I think it’s a courageous move to never show any skinheads or to physically represent the perpetrators, other than to interview one of their fathers and to show a few photos of the attackers’ Nazi paraphernalia.
Watching Beyond Hatred made me want to see some fiction, probably as a form of escape from the harsh reality of the film: an escape through the catharsis afforded by a three-act narrative. I’ll throw out some ideas: Brokeback Mountain and Boys Don’t Cry both sensitively depict gay love, and the bigotry and violence that can come crashing down on it. And then, for representations of the other side — of getting inside the bigots’ world — I’d recommend skinhead movies Romper Stomper and American History X.
I bring up these films because they, in a way, satisfy the viewers’ voyeuristic desire to see where violence is spawned and how it plays out. Beyond Hatred doesn’t do that, and I think that’s to the credit of the film.
Beyond Hatred premieres Tuesday, June 30 at 10 p.m. Check your local listings.