Upon departing the screening of Helene Angel's Skin of Man, Heart of Beast, I was left with a stupefying mental puzzle filled with jagged pieces of plot and dialogue that did not quite fit together in any coherent manner. While the film is linear in the traditional sense, free of time warps and flashbacks, the imagery and symbolism cause one to wonder about its underlying message. Is it a criticism of the brutal treatment of women in rural French society? Or is it a story of conquest about two innocent young girls able to overcome a sadly dysfunctional family situation? Because of the film's ambiguity, I'll discuss only those pieces of the puzzle that are concrete enough to judge and explain.

Serge Riaboukine and Barnard Blancan represent the titular "beasts." They are two brothers that not only appear strikingly beastly on the outside, but also have rapacious souls, which they nourish through the abuse of women. Riaboukine plays Franky, an alcoholic city cop who is forced to give up his badge after savagely beating a prostitute while in a drunken stupor. He retreats to the family farm with his mother (Maaike Jansen), teenage brother (Pascal Cervo), and two daughters. There he reunites with his boyhood community and is warmly welcomed by his family, friends, and not surprisingly, sleazy underworld connections. Ironically, he is gentle and loving around his two girls, especially the baby, five-year-old Aurelie (Cathy Hinderchild), whose character is meant to symbolize purity, as she exists in an overly optimistic world of fairies and fantasy. At night when he steps way from his family, however, Franky is a gluttonous savage of a man who parties, drinks, and womanizes with reckless abandon.

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