Dumont is much more confident when he sticks to the title town and the young woman the men left behind; his habit of alternating close shots with extreme long shots and his singularly unsentimental way of showing sex are as distinctive as ever.
A soul also lurks underneath the shocks. When the director turns the most overused three-word phrase into a devastating reinstatement of humanity, you're quickly reminded of why [director] Dumont was so lauded in the first place.
The opening scenes of hardscrabble farms in Northern France present an utterly bleak existence. It's not surprising, then, that the villages' men don't bat an eye when they are called to fight in a brutal North African conflict.
Pretentious to the core and lacking any context or credible characterizations, Flanders juxtaposes bucolic scenes of life in a farm community, featuring a clutch of dim-witted rustics, with scenes of utter barbarity in an unspecified war.