Let's fall in the hideous, disgusting, sick and bleak mud of a marshy coastal bay somewhere between Boulogne and Gravelines in France, you know where the refugees are slowly rotting away waiting for a miracle to take them across the Channel.
The action is at the beginning of the 20th century, before the First World War for sure and the first social upheaval in Nord Pas de Calais in 1906 after the mine accident in Courrières that caused a strike that was broken by Clemenceau's supposedly republican army, but after the first anarchistic upheaval in the coal mines at the end of the 19th century so perfectly described by Emile Zola as a call to all capitalist bourgeois to move their consonants around and become paternalist if they don't want to finish burned up at the stake or broken through on the wheel by the emerging Marxists already known as communists.
The film in this no man's land of "Who-Know-Where" concentrates on three sets of people.
First the local sailors just pick mussels from the rocks along the coast but do not have any boats to go fishing out at sea. And in the summer they make some centimes, meaning some pennies, by carrying tourists, vacationers, rich bourgeois from Lille, Roubaix and Tourcoing across the bay in their own arms. To improve their starving diet they just kill one or two from time to time to add some meat to their poor regimen. Cannibalism, you will say. But you are wrong about it. It is plain survival of those who have the sharpest teeth.
The big family of textile bourgeois from Tourcoing, is so inbred that we could doubt they are nothing else but a reborn personification of Tutankhamun, the twisted, humpy, sickly descendant of several generation of inbreeding from brother to sister. The master of the family has a hump and walks like a half-crushed beetle. His wife is hardly better though she is apparently coming from a slightly more distant branch, many second removed cousin, though her brother who is maybe brother in law of the head of the family, or maybe just cousin, or maybe nephew, who knows really since it is the same thing anyway, is not brilliant either and is probably slightly autistic. The head of the family and his wife have two daughters and nothing special about them. The sister of the head of the family has a son, Billie, whose father is doubtful and could be either her own brother or their father, meaning the woman when a teenager was used both by the brother and the father of the lot. That son Billie is the most beautiful perversion of incestuous inbreeding. He is a boy who dresses like a girl and at times when he is bored he is a girl who dresses like a boy. He is courting the adult son of the local fishing family, till that son discovers that girl who dresses like a boy is actually a boy.
Add to that the secondary little servants of this rotting society. The priest is innocuous, except that he uses his French language haphazardly. He says "Pêchez en paix!" as if he did not know that may mean both "Fish in peace" or "Sin in peace." The point is he probably means both which is untranslatable in English. The cops, an inflated fat detective, Mr. Machin, meaning, among several dozens of words, "contraption," "doohickey," "gadget," "gizmo," "thingumabob," "thingumajig," "thingummy," "contrivance," and his assistant, definitely fit and slim. And the detective is so full of air that he ends up flying in the sky till some bored soldier shoots the air out of him and makes him descend back onto the surface of the earth. The soldiers are innocuous and valueless except that the colonel at the head of them does not know how to play the bugle he faithfully pretends to sound.
And that's it, plus finger-licking nice choice morsels from human bodies cooked in their own blood. Who wants some more foot? The satire is so thick with innuendo and grossness that you will be grossed out. Full stop, period, end of the game. As for the French they speak it is either some snobbish French or some local Picard dialect, anyway, the one like the other, out of reach of any normal humane and civilized person. Don't you try to understand the two linguos or linguas, or you may end up finding out it is even more disgusting than you may have ever thought. Treat it as the language of the prehistoric animals that came before Homo Sapiens and from which we are "unluckily" descending.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU