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Le Moment Suprême – Belgian Directors, Cinephiliac Moments (3)

Fabrice du Welz


Episode 3 – Fabrice du Welz

Fabrice du Welz burst onto the silver screen in 2004 with a memorable cinematic blend that was equal parts American redneck horror and Belgian surrealism, making our monarchy proud to finally host a contemporary director that can handle horror. For Photogénie, Du Welz reveals his softer side, enjoying Schubert, Kubrick by candlelight, and long walks on the beach – though the latter has yet to be confirmed. Calvaire (The Ordeal) opens with schlager singer Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas) putting on his make-up and performing at a retirement home for Christmas, where a strange aftermath sees him sexually accosted by both an elderly woman and a nurse before he leaves. What follows is a superb meeting between The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974) and Un Soir, Un Train (André Delvaux, 1968), with du Welz engaging the full potential of the Belgian Ardennes, home to many a strange thing. Leaving the home, Marc Stevens takes a wrong turn in the fog at night and ends up in dense woods following a small sign that leads to an inn. Unfortunately, his car breaks down, and he encounters one of the locals. Calvaire was the beginning of du Welz’s Ardennes trilogy with Laurent Lucas, of which Alleluia (2014) is the second part. Based on the tale of “Lonely Hearts Killers” Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, du Welz transposes the plot and his brand of pitch-black humor to the age of online dating, producing what Variety’s Peter Debruge called a “squirm-inducing (…) shield-your-eyes-thriller (with an) appropriately hellish look (…) full of nasty surprises.” It was the more internationally oriented psychological thriller Vinyan (2008) however, that followed first. The film is set in Thailand and Myanmar right after the onslaught of the 2004 tsunami, and has Paul (Rufus Sewell) and Jeanne Bellmer (Emmanuelle Béart) searching for their missing son Joshua. The film grips the viewer tightly by the throat from the very beginning with its underwater shots of violently bubbling water and panicking voices screaming louder and louder on the audio track. A flutter of black hair passes the camera and a red mist pervades the screen as the screams grow louder, until we see Jeanne pop up out of the water and the quiet rolling of the breaking waves takes over. The heartbroken couple’s journey to find their son is harrowing one, for as they descend ever deeper into the dense green hell that is the jungle, they are not only confronted with their own mental deterioration but also with the locals’ own ghosts. 2014 is a productive year for du Welz, because along with Alleluia he has also just released the sleek “policier” Colt 45. There is thus plenty to look forward to, and enough to look back on, especially for future visitors of the Ardennes.


Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)

Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)

In Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, the scene where Barry (Ryan O’Neal) makes the acquaintance of Lady Lyndon (Marisa Berenson) at the gaming table – which extends to the balcony where she and Barry kiss – is, in my eyes, a cinematographic moment that touches on the sublime. Perfectly composed by Kubrick, this sequence offers a total photographic cohesion; the dominantly orange candle light in the gaming room and the “bleu de lune” of the balcony blends delicately with Schubert’s Piano Trio No.2, which perfectly weds the beating hearts, the tension, and the excitement of two characters inescapably walking towards their fate. Barry takes Lady Lyndon’s hand, draws her to him and kisses her. This is without a doubt one of the most fascinating scenes that I have been privy to witness in my cinephile existence.