Character: Joseph, the caretaker
Actor: Vincent Cassel
Film: Sheitan (2003)
Kim Chapiron’s Sheitan is a gawky, pimpled and post-pubescent teenager with Internet access. Teenagers want sex and the Internet knows it. They feel terrible about it and the Internet knows that too. There are virtual wastelands where they can explore the extent of their perversions; vast arenas encouraging free rides into the shallowest depths of convoluted physiological issues. However, gratification comes at a cost. After wiping unborn generations off dirty handkerchiefs and unwashed towels, crippling discomfort sets in. The soul is ridden with shame and it asks the brain to tell the limbs to check the fridge for junk food.
The Internet is evil and it has a plan. It also has a sadistic side that lures teenagers with promises of filth and grandeur and ruins lives by introducing malware that slow down system performance, steal identities and/or reset passwords. Pure evil, this Internet guy. He even has social media super powers that egg millions of teenagers to create personal profiles and publish intricate previews of their beautiful minds. They share philosophies, humor, health facts or hurricane-fueled streams of consciousness in order to seek sexual gratification. It’s like pornography for the soul. Franchised youth pretending to be dark, hysterical and ambrosial, hoping that someone might be seduced by it.
Vincent Cassel, as Joseph, in Sheitan is the Internet. The character shows around the French countryside to these teenagers. He is a caretaker, guide, friend, philosopher and the greatest storyteller in the galaxy. These city-bred loudmouths think he is a bit of a joke with his bold and confident recital of the most awkward details of his life. That he wants them to have a good time is not up for debate. He brings naked and nubile women, country liquor and gritty hip hop music. He really wants them to have a good time. He wants to skin them and wear their body parts as fashion accessories too, but he mostly wants them to have a great time.
Vincent Cassel is Mr Broadband with unlimited downloads at maximum speed and he will not let this piece of cinema slip by without raising eyebrows. He is suitably psychopathic as Joseph, a caretaker, a sheepherder and a man with admirable family values. He is so good that we don’t have the space to appreciate the stunning portrait of creative chaos that is his facial hair. The wear-and-tear is astounding because it makes perfect sense that Joseph neither has the stability nor the inclination to maintain that which has been naturally bestowed upon him. As sad as it is that we don’t notice the little things that the whimsical moustache probably does during pivotal moments, we must be god’s favourite children because we get to admire the acting prowess of its magnificent owner.
Sheitan breaks through the door of asinine cinema because of him. Most of its characters comprise perverted teens and nymphomaniac French cowgirls with sexy accents that accentuate sexier double entendres. As sarcastic of a statement on sexual frustration and xenophobia as it tries to make, most of the film is wasted on coarse characterization and conspicuous analogies. Vincent single-handedly takes the film to a higher plane of consciousness by with his character’s dementia. He goes all out in a scary and intense way like Heath Ledger as Joker in The Dark Knight. They even have similar grimaces and grins.
The conversation that he has with Bart (a superlative performance by Olivier Barthelemy as an annoying bastard) about hot springs and therapeutic baths is about the stuff that makes milk snort out of our nostrils even if we are drinking any.
Thank you, Vincent. You don’t have to explain Ocean’s Twelve and Thirteen anymore.