Flanders

"Weak"

Flanders Review


For being the beacon of "world cinema discovery," Cannes has quickly garnered a track record best suited to a three-legged stallion at the Kentucky Derby. Last year, the two highest regards were given to Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley (a solid film) and Bruno Dumont's Flanders (a dud with zero Milk Dud appeal). Legitimate groundbreakers like Pedro Costa's Colossal Youth went home with zip and feats of misguided politics and unnerving mediocrity like Babel and Dumont's latest were slapped on the back and given a gold star.

Released a year after its Cannes debut, any thought of expecting the vivid eccentricities of Dumont's excellent The Life of Jesus or the now-classic L'Humanite should be left at the door. If 2003's Twentynine Palms was a step down, Flanders has the feeling of a step off a Boeing 747 with a backpack and a sandwich instead of a parachute. Flanders couldn't be more nightmarish: The politics are clunky, the humanity smells of battery acid, and the sexuality has the disposition of the muddy, pig-shit-laden farms that most of the action occurs in.

It's on one of these very farms that Demester (Samuel Boidin) shuffles around, looking like a poorly-educated Neanderthal with nary the knowhow to properly milk a cow. His best friend, Barbe (Adélaïde Leroux), allows him to take her, savagely, in an open field and then gives it up to near strangers she picks up at bars in their disastrously-colored two-door sedans. It's one of these GQ man-of-the-year candidates that knocks Barbe up right before Demester and most of the male community are sent off to war.

As they are displaced in an unnamed country made-up mostly of desert, Demester and his regiment partake in acts of barbarism, carelessly slaughtering men and having their way with women. Meanwhile, Barbe has gone mad from missing the father of her unborn child and Demester, relegating her to a home for the mentally screwy. It's not long before Demester's regiment is captured by the enemy and tortured by castration, burning, and all other kinds of aggrandized acts of "realistic" violence.

Pessimism is one thing, but Flanders is quite another. Dumont's attempt to talk about the current state of soldier humanity and life during wartime couldn't be more oafish. From what I can gather, Dumont believes that all of us are either sluts or rabid morons without even the simplest notion of morality. Shot superbly by Yves Cape, the film lingers on its putrid acts of torture and brutish sex without the faintest notion that it's becoming an act of torture in its own way. The way the camera loomed over the young victim's vagina in L'Humanite has been replaced with a gaping, bloody wound from dull-knife castration as one of the soldiers wails, stumbles around, and eventually lies down in the hysteria of pain. Whatever might have happened since Twentynine Palms, Dumont has become a bitter artist with the inability to draw and study characters with any sort of balance. The end result is a leftist nightmare of grunting, ghoulish soldiers who don't know any better than to indulge their urges; Dumont seems to be indulging one as well.

Aka Flandres.



Flanders

Facts and Figures

Run time: 91 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 30th August 2006

Distributed by: International Film Circuit

Production compaines: 3b productions, arte Cinéma, C.R.R.A.V. Nord Pas de Calais, Le Fresnoy Studio National des Arts Contemporains, Centre National de la Cinématographie, CinéCinéma, Contact Film, Soficinéma, Cofinova 2

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Fresh: 39 Rotten: 18

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: Adélaïde Leroux as Barbe, Samuel Boidin as André Demester, Henri Cretel as Blondel, Jean-Marie Bruveart as Briche, David Poulain as Leclercq, Patrice Venant as Mordac, David Legay as Lieutenant, Inge Decaesteker as France

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