Bruno Dumont drew attention to his work with his first film, La vie de Jesus, which was a realistic portrayal of the miserable existence of people in a small town north of France. His second film, L'humanité, also takes place in Bailleul, the nondescript Flanders town of the previous film. Another similarity is that the hero of this film, Pharaoh de Winter (Emmanuel Schotte) is also a loner who lives with his mother. The house they live was owned by Pharaoh's grandfather, who was a famous painter. The opening scene shows Pharaoh walking in a freshly plowed field. He throws himself onto the moist soil to feel it and to smell it. Thirty-year-old Pharaoh is an unsophisticated and humble man. He is simple but not a simpleton. He has a crush on his sexy neighbor, factory worker Domino (Severine Caneele), a gentle soul in love with a brute named Joseph (Philippe Tullier). Pharaoh's daily life is quite dull; he is a police lieutenant, a job that does not agree with his mild temperament. He has to investigate the rape and murder of a little girl. What makes Pharaoh different from others is the suffering he goes through due to his uncontrollable empathy for other human beings. He is an emotional sponge condemned to carry the burden of all our wrongdoings. He is hungry for human feelings to the point that he would smell the face of the suspect he interrogates. In the final analysis, he also is a Jesus figure, like the hero of the first film. The message is there is no place for such figures in our cruel world. Bruno Dumont has a lot of compassion for his characters, which is evident in the way that he observes their daily lives and the conflicts that they are faced with. Explicit sexual scenes may offend some viewers. L'humanité won the Grand Prize of the 52nd Cannes Film Festival, 1999. Actress Severine Caneele shared the Best Actress award with Emilie Dequenne of Rosetta and Emmanuel Schotte won the Best Actor award.