23 November 2015 | rubenm
Exciting and ambitious thriller
'D'Ardennen' is Robin Pront's first feature film, but I'd have sworn it was made by a very experienced film maker. This is a well-made, exciting, and ambitious movie - a successful accomplishment in every respect.
Pront hasn't made it easy for himself. To mention just one thing: the film is spoken entirely in the dialect of the Flemish city Antwerp. That means that even here in Flanders, it is shown with subtitles. Commercially, that's a drawback, but it makes the movie much more authentic.
The film is built on a very strong screenplay. Two brothers commit a holdup, but only one of them manages to escape. The other one is caught and convicted, and is released from jail four years later. After the reunion, he slowly pulls his brother down in a spiral of violence and crime. His former girlfriend plays a crucial part in his self-destructive behaviour. The tense relationship between the two brothers is characterized by unspoken reproaches on the one hand and strong family ties on the other. The girl is the reason for the dramatic developments that lead to a bloody climax.
Not only is this a very intelligent thriller, it is also a great movie from a cinematographic point of view. Pront and his cinematographer are very good in filming scenes through mirrors or windows, creating surprising and original effects. The crucial reunion between the two brothers is filmed in the rear view mirror of a car, accentuating the emotional distance that has grown between them. When they are having a meal in a restaurant, they are filmed form both sides of the window pane, with raindrops creating a nice visual effect. The locations are very well chosen: Antwerp is shown as an industrial wasteland, and the snowy hills of the Ardennes are filmed as a creepy place with weird inhabitants.
The film slowly works its way towards a bloody apotheosis, which was a bit overdone to my taste. The story didn't really need the considerable body count, above all because at the end there is a surprising twist with much dramatic effect. But this is a minor flaw in an otherwise outstanding film.
Just like Oscar-nominated Bullhead a few years ago, this is a Flemish film with international appeal. Too bad Belgium has already selected Jaco Van Dormael's last film for the Academy Awards.