With my husband in LA for business (how cool does that sound!) I have a few evenings to myself to fill up on films and anime that he put in the ‘no pile’. Now that I have watched Man Bites Dog, I can say that (at least for him) this was a film that he will be glad to not have seen due to the high body count and, at times incredibly graphic, acts of violence.
I think that we band about the term ‘black comedy’ rather liberally to mean anything that can provoke a laugh due to something a bit dark. Man Bites Dog takes the idea of making a black comedy and stretches it to the point where it snaps completely and the film ends up increasingly bleak and hard to stomach.
To reinforce this tone (and eventual climactic shirt) it helps that Man Bites Dog is shot in a mockumentary style. At the beginning they are able to make light on their film documentary on the life and work of Benoit, an incredibly prolific Belgian serial killer. He gives us tips on how to sink a body and guides us all through his methods – all the while the body count climbs at an alarming rate.
Even whilst displaying many abhorant prejudices and, well, being a mass murderer – Benoit is an engaging and psychotic lead. However, things take a turn when the camera crew begin to take part in the violence, which begins with them holding down a child as Benoit suffocates him and culminates in a gang rape.
It’s a tonal whiplash that really reminds us of just how culpable we are as an audience who were quite easily won over in the beginning and who likely laughed at the recurring ‘occupational hazard’ joke of the film crew’s sound guy being killed in different crossfires. Similarly, seeing how this is in the style of a documentary, it makes you wonder how many people lost their lives because Benoit wanted to show off for the camera crew which, again, implicates the viewer for the many deaths on screen.
The film fizzles a bit out at the end where the ending feels a little bit abrupt, but it still leaves a massive impact as the credits role. Although it lacks the tension of Funny Games I feel that a parallel can be drawn. Both films feature psychotic protagonists who kill for the joy of it (there’s no past trauma to speak of in either case, just a love of murder) and the both make the audience partly at fault for the deaths on screen.
Definitely not a film for the faint-hearted. Or my mum. Seriously mum – never watch this film.