This early afternoon scene from L’humanité (1999, France) serves to illustrate why its director Bruno Dumont has been associated with the “New French Extremity.” Yet the sex act—graphic especially through its sound close-ups—is not the main subject here. The real subject is Pharaon (Emmanuel Schotté), or more precisely his gaze, which imbues the image, here and in the rest of L’humanité (which Dumont insists on spelling with a lower-case “h”). Pharaon is a police lieutenant in the northern-French town of Bailleul. Earlier that day he was the witness of a horrible crime. Now he is standing here in the doorframe, hollow-eyed, his shoulders sloping, his jacket washed-out, staring at his neighbor Domino (Sévérine Caneele) who he is not so secretly in love with and her boyfriend Joseph (Phillipe Tullier). But what is Pharaon really looking at, what is his gaze seeing, what is it seeing through his human eyes? Through the drawn curtains shines a diffuse early-afternoon light. In front of the window is a table lamp. With no-one near it, the lamp switches on, and off, on, and off again. Pharaon is not normal, nor is this film itself, as will be confirmed later when we see its protagonist levitating between the flowers in his community garden. Beneath its naturalist, over-aestheticized surface, L’humanité harbors the miraculous nature of Pharaon’s blank stare. To make a long story short, Pharaon is the mute Christ, the word become flesh, and simultaneously a rather slow man, perhaps even an idiot lacking the word, unable as he is to express his all all-too-human desires. Less-than-human and more-than-human at once, Pharaon is his lack, his expressive inability to express himself. It is this expressive muteness of his gaze that we see reflected in the blissful light falling through the curtains, and it is this immanent presence that we see Pharaon being absorbed by in the film’s final shot, his face growing calm, even smiling, as in paraphrase of the final moments of the priest in Robert Bresson’s 1951 Journal d’un cure de champagne (on which L’humanité is a variation). “Tout est grâce.” “All is grace.” Dumont’s films are extreme indeed, perhaps even more so in a spiritual than in a carnal way.