After having read a lot about Belgian films in general, you realized that I didn’t talk much about Flemish moviemakers. You thought I’d forget them? Never in a month of Sundays! I only wanted to dedicate them a whole episode of my Belgian series. Let’s talk about Flemish films!
I already talked to you about Henri Storck, André Delvaux, Jan Vandereyden and Raoul Servais but they are not the only Flemish filmmakers, far from it! After Meeuwen Sterven in de Haven, Roland Verhavert became a specialist of the adapatations of famous Flemish novels. One remembers Rolande Med de Bles in 1972, De Loteling in 1973 and Pallieter in 1976. The latter is a drama, in which the actors surprisingly lack of credibility. It was typical from that time. Realism wasn’t always the first quality for an actor!
The mysterious Mister Hawarden, a character of a novel by Filp de Pillecyn, was born in 1969. According to the rumour he was a woman, for whom two men fought to death. And she would have killed the survivor and cross-dressed to escape the police. This is the story that Harry Kümel tells in Monsieur Hawarden.But Kümel was better-known for Malpertuis. This film starring Orson Welles and Sylvie Vartan (daring casting, isn’t it?) wasn’t much of a success in Cannes but we will remember it for the mystery that prevailed around it.
In the eighties emerges the one that we call the “enfant terrible” of Belgian cinema: Robbe De Hert. In 1973 he stirred up a hornet’s nest with his documentary Camera Sutra. Then he devoted himself to a cinema, which combines popularity and social commitment, for instance with Die Witte van Sichem in 1980 or Blueberry Hill in 1989. His filmmaking was praised for its quality and his innovation.
In the nineties Erik Van Looy attracted attention with Ad Fundum and Shades. He asserted himself in 2003 thanks to Da zaak Alzheimer, a thriller which tells the story of a murderer who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. And in 2008 he won recognition with Loft, a true box-office success!
It was the beginning of the international success of the Flemish cinema thanks to a new generation of daring filmmakers!
In 2009 a young director won the art film reward in Cannes with an unashamed film: De Helaasheid der Dingen. He’s called Felix Van Groeningen. He tells the story of a boy, Gunther Strobbe, who grows up in a very masculine, very unconventional and very alcoholic environment. Will he be able not to reproduce this oppressive atmosphere in his own family? It may be a grim film, but it’s also incredibly funny and vibrant. We loved it at Les Arcs. In Cannes, our alcoholic heroes were the talk of the town: the arrived by bike… naked (a tribute to one of the craziest scenes of the film). Everyone remembers it. Before De Helaasheid der Dingen, Van Groeningen directed Steve + Sky and Dagen Zonder Lief, two movies which revealed his passion for surrealism in high colour worlds. Today he is considered as the leader of the Flemish new wave!
In My Queen Karo there is also a child (a ten-year-old girl named Karo) who tries to shape her identity in a lax environment too. She lives in a hippy community in the seventies. In competition at Les Arcs in 2009, this film by Dorothée Van Den Berghen starring Matthias Schoenaerts and Deborah François, shows the difficulty of fighting for one’s ideals n a society where relationships are really complex. Their ideal was to share everything. We shared this film with you.
In 2010, Adem by Hans Van Nuffel moved and filled our festival audience with enthusiasm. This first feature film by this promising director (The End of the Trip, FAL, Nightwalks) tells the story of Tom, a young man suffering from cystic fibrosis like his brother and waiting for a lung transplant. Between his overprotective parents, his disreputable friends, his hospital friend Xavier and the one he loves Eline, he realizes that he has a strong will to live. This film is a hymn to life, which touched everyone at Les Arcs.
Christophe van Rompaey also attracted attention in Les Arcs in 2011 with the film Lena (a Dutch film but directed by a Belgian filmmaker). Lena is a seventeen-year-old girl, too fat, too shy, not self-assured enough, who tries to find her place in the pitiless world of teenagers. She finds it by Daan’s sides… until she discovers the truth about him. Emma Levie, the moving actress playing Lena, won the award for best actress at the festival. Before that Van Rompaey was already known for his short-films between 1996 and 2001 and for his first feature film in 2008: Moscow, Belgium, which was a big hit in Flanders.
Belgian cinema has been booming since 2011 with Bullhead (Roskop), a thriller combining cattle, scorned friendships, a shady past, and hormones. It was praised by the critics and was even nominated for the Academy awards. It was run by a very promising duet: Michael R. Roskam (director) and Matthias Schoenaerts (actor). After having been into comic books and painting, Roskam found his vocation: cinema. Before Bullhead he had already directed several short-films, and among them The One Thing to Do in 2005, his first collaboration with Schoenaerts. He is now working on many projects and approached by powerful people in Hollywood. He will notably direct a new series named Buda Bridge Bitch (HBO) and The Tiger, an adaptation of John Vaillant’s novel. As for Matthias Schoenaerts, he acted for Jacques Audiard in De Rouille et d’Os. He played the role of Ali, who meets Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard), and those two devastated character will rely on each other to bail themselves out. It was a great discovery in Cannes. Now Schoenarts works on Blood Ties, by Guillaume Canet, in which he will meet Marion Cotillard again, but also Mila Kunis and Clive Owen. To be released in 2013!
Since then, moviegoers are in the lookout for any Flemish film treasure. Last spring we discovered Hasta la Vista by Geoffrey Enthoven (Happy Together, The Over the Hill Band), which was acclaimed by the audience and in festivals. We’re also waiting for The Invader, the first feature film by Nicolas Provost, and for Haunted, an adaptation by Koen Mortier. Save the date!