Saturday, June 13, 2009


14th French Film Festival
Cinema 3, Shang Cineplex

Geographically, Flanders is the region in parts of Belgium, France and the Netherlands where there is a thriving Flemings community. Flemings referring to the Dutch speaking population of Belgium. Historically, the Flanders fields was the venue for one of the fiercest battles ever fought in the First World War. It has even been immortalized in a Canadian poem by John McCrae entitled "In Flanders Fields" which paid tribute to the lives lost in war.

But this Bruno Dumont film isn't about the battles of the First World War. But it does feature a war nonetheless. A small town in Flanders is the home town of Andre and Barb. They both lead a monotonous existence on a farm. Andre enlists in the army and goes off to fight an unknown war. I say unknown because they don't really specify the exact location. It could be the Algerian war, the Iraq war or the one waged in the perilous region of Afghanistan. While Barb is left on her own to cope with her personal demons. A dangerous combination of depression and sex addiction.

The scenes juxtaposes between the bleak, morose setting in Flanders to the arid desert. There are really graphic violent images of war as well as gratuitous sex scenes which numb your senses.

The director uses the minimalist approach. Dialogue however limited in entirely in French with English subtitles. There are wide shot angles of scenery, extreme facial close ups with nary a sound to break the silence. Yet despite the silence, there are certain nuances which are implied. It is up to the viewer to do his own analysis about the behavior and demeanor of the main characters.

I have to say that this type of film might not appeal to everyone. Especially given the disturbing violent scenes which can really jar your mind. Plus the long footage of scenery without any dialogue or music to 'occupy' your senses.

Yet maybe the main premise is that there are certain things best left unsaid. Or that actions speak louder than words. Towards the ending though when Andre expresses his true feelings (however odd it is) there is a sense of liberation both on the part of the characters involved as well as the audience. You sort of leave the theater with a sigh of relief. Relieved that despite the hardships both Andre and Barb experienced there is a small glimmer of hope that shines in their future. That however small it is ... it is still more than we can ever hope for!

2 popcorn buckets:

Fidel Antonio Medel said...

I feel lukewarm about this film. The graphic representation of sex and violence are definitely hard to forget, but it's hard to feel sympathy for such unlikable characters.

D@phn3 L@ur@ said...

I agree the characters don't have much personality but they are not entirely unlikable either.


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