Flanders

2006 [FRENCH]

Drama / Romance / War

0
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 66%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 57%
IMDb Rating 6.5 10 3083

castration

Plot summary


Uploaded by: FREEMAN
August 30, 2022 at 06:35 PM

Director

Top cast

720p.BLU
838.91 MB
1280*546
fre 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
1 hr 31 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by howard.schumann 9 / 10

Expressionistic and poetic

Whether you like the films of Bruno Dumont or not, one thing is certain - you never forget them. Films such as La Vie de Jesus and L'Humanité have an elemental power that challenge us to confront the sickness of the soul that comes from denying our capacity to be and act human. Dumont's latest film Flanders, winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2006, has the same acute powers of observation, slow and careful revelation of character, and insight into the human condition that characterized his first two films. Like La Vie de Jesus, Flanders is a film that deals with sexual and racial tension and marginal young people whose lives mirror the emptiness of the rural countryside in which the film is set.

The first two words of the film are the "f" word and the "s" word, which set the tone for what is to follow. Demester (Samuel Boidin), a burly local works on a farm and is having a passionless relationship with Barbe (Adélaide Leroux), a girl from a neighboring farm. True to Dumont's oeuvre, sex is joyless and mechanical and neither partner expresses affection. There is little dialogue and no musical score, only sounds of nature, the clumping of boots through the forest, and the grunting and pumping that suggest the sex act. The expressions on the faces of the characters are as vacant as the surrounding countryside and no director in the world can better convey a sense of pervasive emptiness than Bruno Dumont.

At a local pub, Demester matter-of-factly denies that he and Barbe are a couple, prompting Barbe to react by going off with a stranger, Blondel (Henri Cretel) to have sex and it soon becomes apparent that she has a reputation in the village for promiscuity. Demester and Blondel's fate will intertwine however. Both are in the same regiment called up to fight an unnamed war in a distant country that looks like the North Africa of Claire Denis'Beau Travail. It is not clear if the fighting is meant to reflect the War in Iraq, the French adventure in Algeria, or perhaps a European war yet to be fought. When the soldiers arrive they walk through a trench, possibly a vision of World War I in Flanders field, immortalized in the poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915.

Dumont shows us war in its ultimate depravity including rape, murder of children, castration, and other brutalities. It is as if years of the soldier's sexual tensions and lack of emotional connection has exploded in a callous way, reflective of the torture of Iraqi's at Abu Ghraib. As his buddies die one by one at the hands of dark-skinned guerilla fighters, it becomes obvious that Demester will not lift a finger to save or protect them, a witness to his inability to access what FDR used to call, "that quiet, invisible thing called conscience". As the guerilla fighting in the streets and houses intensify, there is a war going on at home also. Barbe becomes pregnant and has a mental breakdown that lands her in a psychiatric hospital. Soon the war will be fought on two fronts.

Flanders has been called an anti-war film but the war seems to take place mostly on an internal level. It is expressionistic and poetic, a film that unfolds as if in a dreamscape that has no past, present, or future. You cannot appreciate Flanders by thinking about it, but only by feeling it, viscerally, in your blood. After showing mankind at its most vile in order to, in the director's own words, "relieve us of those urges", Dumont grants us a catharsis. Like unemployed, uneducated, and epileptic 20-year old Freddy in La Vie de Jesus whose vision of the sun after a brutal murder heralded an awakening, in his barn after the war's end, Demester recognizes the truth of the gaping wounds in his own soul and opens himself to the possibility of grace.

Reviewed by matt-szy 9 / 10

a poet tells a story of the most important kind

Bruno Dumont does not like expressions on people faces. The characters in his films do not act with facial expressions. Instead they move and talk and look around like any real live person might do except with no emotion. This is called minimalism. Dumont directs his actors to portray as minimal emotion, reaction, sensation as possible. This does not mean he does not take the face into consideration. No, no. It is in the face that we can see the person, what they have been through, how much they might have suffered, experienced, etc. In fact, Dumont chooses faces well. And what Dumont does better than choose the faces of his actors is he creates a sense of emotions, internal confusion, and unguided motivation in a world that exists solely between the boundaries of our vision and the outermost layer of our eyes. We see this in Flandres.

What could and usually is, in cinema, a way to convey emotions is by framing facial expressions which usually follow or/and precede dialogue. Dumont simplifies this process and leaves any emotional identification more up to interpretation, and consequently having us rely on our own feelings as viewers to understand the characters depth rather than understanding the characters feelings – for as it seems, for Dumont, feelings are a rather difficult thing to express.

Dumont does this by montage. The main character, Demester, a weird but thoughtful looking guy, is with the girl he does not call his girlfriend, Barbe, on the day before he leaves to war. They are sitting before a bonfire in the French country side during winter. They are met by the guy who the Barbe recently met at a bar, Blondel, a pretty looking boy. Barbe and Blondel have sex right away in the parking lot. Demester watches this happen but does not react. Both Blondel and Demester are going to war and will be in the same brigade. Barbe is sitting between them. They simultaneously lay back in the grass. Barbe takes turns kissing them, leaning from one side to Demester then to Blondel, telling them how much she will miss them both. Demester sits up. He stares off in the distance, detached from the situation. After seeing his blank face for a while we cut to a silhouette of a tree in the distance with the flat and frozen winter country in the background. The tree has no leaves, it's branches reach out wildly in all directions. A few moments pass. And cut.

Sex in Dumont's films is often brutal and sad, and is always short. The girls never appear to get pleasure out of sex and the guy is always mechanical and numb. Demester and Barbe walk silently for some time to an isolated grassy area where they do not kiss, Barbe only pulls down her pants and says, "do you want me?" at which point Demester gets on top of Barbe. It is as though the characters in Dumont's films are simplified to their basic animal needs and that sex is the only means to some deeper connection. In "The Life of Jesus" the main boy and his girl are often in the background of a scene kissing at a slugs pace with no elevation of excitement, receiving no reaction from friends nearby, frozen in a suction like mouth to mouth. Likewise, in a scene in "Humanity" sex is shot from a wide angle in a long take revealing the banality of the act.

Shots of repetitive motions often last for awkwardly moments. As Demester is plowing though a field – he is a farmhand – with a tractor a close up of the blades slicing through mud and dirt underline the mere ugliness and mechanical repetitive nature of things. Shots and repetition like this persist in all Dumont's films. In "The Life of Jesus" it is the sight and sounds of the Scooters, the monotone kissing of the young couple, and in "Humanity," it is the legs of a man riding a bike, among others, which the viewer is forced to watch obsessively.

Above all Dumont is a moralist, however subtle. He shows us the thoughtlessness of our actions. Flandres is, in short, about a guy who does not know if he loves a girl. He leaves to war, and there he rapes, kills, witnesses killing, leaves behind a fellow soldier in order to save himself, gets lost, and is himself nearly killed in a few situations. His life is spared not by any of his good deeds, for there are few, instead his life is spared by none other than blind luck. He is not special. He is just lucky. And after having returned home to his little simple life in the French countryside, unable to verbalize this experiences to Barbe, the only words he is able to conjure up, after some difficulty, is I love you.

Reviewed by Chris Knipp 9 / 10

Powerful return to form for Dumont

In a way, Bruno Dumont's Flandres is no more realistic than Cuarón's Children of Men. It doesn't exactly seek to depict real people or a real war. Dumont's people are laconic, but the powerful film-making tells a clear and moving story. Using simple, economical means and focusing on a few individuals, presenting scenes that follow a logical, universal progression, Flandres is able to tell a profound story about war's ravages at home and on the front. Dumont's storytelling is simple and sure. So is the cinematography of Yves Cape and the editing of Guy Lacorne. And so is the acting, especially of Samuel Boidin as Démester and of Adélaïde Leroux as his girlfriend Barbe -- but also of Henri Cretel as Démester's friend Blondel, and of Jean-Marie Bruveart (Briche), David Poulain (Leclercq), Patirce Venant (Mordac), David Legay ( (Lieutenant) and Inge Decaesteker (France).

The film focuses on a young farmer and his girlfriend. He and some other locals are going off to war. Last sex, last drinks with friends, last campfire gatherings, last work in the field with a tractor.

Then, the departure: roll call, near a truck, a few people waving goodbye. Next Démester is in the desert. In an attempt to take a building (a scene we know well through documentary news footage from Iraq) one of their officers is blown up. A helicopter takes away the body. They enter the building and kill a couple of youthful partisans -- fighters, clearly, but also mere pitiful boys.

Each of the scenes is iconic and vivid. This is low-budget war, but it feels real enough. How big is the budget of a few men fighting out in the bush? There are tanks and explosions aplenty. Most of all there is sweat and dust and blood. Two other things happen. The squad captures a woman fighter, and some of the men rape her. Later, on a hillside, they trap a farmer on a donkey loaded with firewood, and they shoot him. They are subsequently captured by members of the enemy (who are North African--but their dialogue isn't translated; and they could be Iraqis) who know what they have done, and they are severely punished.

Meanwhile André's (Démester's) girlfriend Barbe at home grows more and more unstable and after a violent psychotic break, she is hospitalized, but later released.

André escapes with his friend Blondel, but when Blondel's shot, he runs off to save himself.

Dumont uses the inarticulate country talk of the people to underline the universality of the events. How did Blondel die, his girlfriend wants to know later? "Balle dans la tête," Démester says; a bullet in the head. That's all he wants to say, and all we need to know. Démester is a brute, in a way. But he's also got a sweet smile. He's childlike. He is the child sent off to kill that all war builds upon.

Next we see Démester back home. The final sequences convey how damaged he and his girlfriend and his friend's girlfriend are now. André suffers from survivor guilt. Their state is pitiful, but the last shot is positive. André is lying on the dirt with Barbe and telling her over and over "Je t'aime...je t'aime." I love you.

This is classic Dumont style, if on a bolder and grander scale than before. His people are none the less noble, pathetic, and human for being reduced to simplicity, even crudity. Dumont has told a story as energetic and forward-driven as the Dardennes brothers' L'Infant, but more universal, and even more concise (91 rather than 100 minutes). As in Dumont's L'Humanité and La Vie de Jésus, there's a grandeur that emerges from the stripped-down, minimal scenes and people. Everything works. It's surprising that Variety's usually canny reviewer made it sound dull and off-putting. There is still resistance to Dumont's style.

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