10 February 2005 | Coventry
The series that will place Belgium on the map!
I normally don't comment on TV-series but I'm gladly making an exception for our highly prestigious Belgian series "Matroesjka's". This unquestionably is the greatest, most ambitious project ever in this country and I dare to say that it could easily compete with world-class series such as "The Sopranos" or "Alias". A common mistake Belgian writers usually make is that they try very hard to make their premise look Hollywoodian, yet "Matroesjka's" isn't like that. On the contrary, the sex industry is a typical Belgian issue and our country often serves as the turn-table for this kind of crimes. And this series is an intelligent and detailed portrait of it all: raw, often shocking and thought-provoking. "Matroesjka's" centers on a criminal organisation that yearly travels to the poorest ex-Russian countries in order to recruit young girls as dancers for their Antwerp nightclub. The girls are promised big money and a more bright future, but in reality they'll serve for erotic dance-acts and even prostitution. Tired of their pitiable life conditions, ten attractive young girls sign a false contract that literally makes them the property of Ray van Mechelen and his relentless gang of small thugs, deranged psychos and violent aggressors. The rest of the carefully constructed screenplay focuses on the gangsters' interactions with each other (blackmail, betrayal, executions
) as well as with corrupt police detectives and the attempts of a sole journalist trying to publicly unmask the crime network.
"Matroesjka's" exist out of 10 episodes, which comes down to approximately 500 minutes of footage. Yet, there is not one dull moment and every episode becomes more fascinating. The series obviously disposed of a large budget but every cent is well-used! The detailed preceding research to the plotting is flawless while the set pieces and costumes and highly efficient. Most of the chapters are entirely filmed in Belgium, but the actual recruitment of the girls takes place in pauperized Russian wastelands and one episode is filmed in Cyprus where the girls received their "training". The makers put a lot of effort in making their series appear real! The unfortunate girls are actual Russian actresses that only speak English when necessary and with heavy accents. Even the Belgian actors are allowed to speak in their ugly Antwerp dialects and that only increases the naturalness and credibility of the series. Can you imagine dangerous thugs talking correct and without swearing?? Talking about the cast: every Flemish actor that ever meant something in the world of theater or cinema is involved in this project. It's an all-star cast, world famous
in Belgium. Most of them play the roles of their lives, more particularly Peter van den Begin as the head of the organization and Tom Van Dyck as the deranged, trigger happy lunatic.
"Matroesjka's" contains several sequences that are stuffed with exploitative violence and gratuitous nudity
But what else do you expect from an allegory focusing on mafia crimes like this! It's a tough world and if you have the ambition of telling a story about it: you better make it realistic. Luckily, the whole production was realized without having to worry about censorship or ratings which are very important in a shock-portrait like this. Our country doesn't mean that much in the field of television or cinema but "Matroesjka's" undeniably is a brilliant piece of instant cult-entertainment. The news got out that the series already has been sold to several other European countries and TV-stations so, in case you soon encounter it dubbed in French, German, Spanish, English or whatever; please remember where it originally came from.