Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Ordeal

The Ordeal
Original Title: Calvaire
Directed by: Fabrice Du Welz, Belgium/France/Luxembourg, 2004 Drama / Horror, 98min Distributed by: Tartan Video

A travelling cabaret singer, Marc Stevens [Laurent Lucas] travels France leaving a trail of heartbroken women behind him. One night he has the misfortune of having his car breakdown in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a snowy winter storm. He soon stumbles across Boris [Jean-Luc Couchard] a strange guy looking for his runaway dog. Boris leads Marc to inn-keeper M. Bartel [Jackie Berroyer] who kindly offers to give Marc a room for the night and help him fix his car the following morning. But when Bartel seems more interested in keeping him around for company and trashes his broke down van, Marc starts to realise that this friendly sole has no intention of helping him and his terrifying ordeal is just about to begin.

This is a really wild and surreal movie to say the least. The journey that Belgian director Du Welz takes us on just gets darker and grimmer the deeper into the plot we get. What starts off as a somewhat cheesy and laughable opening quickly turns full circle and almost has the viewer gasping for air. It's very interesting that Du Welz tries to keep us distanced from Lucas character Marc, who from the start of the movie is arrogant and obnoxious to all the people he performs for, an old woman at the nursing home, and Mademoiselle Vicky [Brigitte Lahaie] the proprietor of the home, who even gives Marc an envelope with nude Polaroid’s of herself to lure him into some carnal pleasures. Even when Bartel has put him up for the night, served him breakfast and praised his angelic singing, Marc is patronizing. Not even the severe warning to keep away from the villagers makes any difference to Marc, he keeps has haughty attitude towards everyone in his surrounding. So when the shit hits the fan and Marc finds himself victim to horrendous abuse and humiliation, we don't feel sorry for him. We almost feel sympathetic towards Bartel and even Boris instead, which makes it harder to watch the torture that falls upon Marc. It's a very exciting approach which Du Welz manages to pull off, and it emphasizes the distance that we put between Marc and his ordeal. The closeness and love that the characters in the first quarter of the movie crave for is eventually force upon Marc and he has no where to go but into submission. The idea of Bartel transforming Marc into his ex wife is strange enough as it is, but the addition of the surreal village consisting only of men, and Robert Orton's [Phillipe Nahon] jealousy because Bartel's wife came back to him, yes Bartel's wife, not even Orton sees Marc as Marc any more, only the guise of Bartel's ex-wife, just take's it over the top. There are small scale events and larger scale events reflecting upon each other all through the movie which I found very fascinating too, Boris always looking for his lost dog, takes one of the villager’s calf which in his eyes is his dog, and his disillusion satisfy his needs. Bartel sees Marc as his ex wife who once was unfaithful to him with Orton, who also sees Marc as Bartel's wife, it's the same again, their disillusions satisfy their wants. Even tough it is a violent film, Du Welz keeps most of it off-screen and utilises reliable ways to create disturbing scenes which remind me of movies like Straw Dogs 1971, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974, and Misery 1990, and at the same time there's a dark comedic undertow throughout the entire movie which adds to the uncomfortable feeling that the movie evokes when you watch it. It's so bizarre that you want to laugh, but at the same time it's so bizarre that it scares you. It's tricky but it works and it makes an amazingly twisted movie.

The presentation is an Anamorphic 2.35:1 version, and the colours are wonderful. Lots of dark darks, strong reds and a cold winter grey look to the movie. English subtitles are available.

Three tracks available, dts Digital surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0.


Very sparse with the extras, but here you get quality instead of quantity. There's a half-hour Junket/featurette interview with director Du Welz who talks about the movie, it's background, his influences and his reflections on the movie, the original trailer and then Du Welz equally twisted short movie Quand on est amoureux c'est merveilleux 1999 [A Wonderful Love] about Lara [Edith Lemerdy] a lonely woman who will stop at nothing to be loved. It’s a dark, comedic and grotesque tale of violence, love and desire, which plays in the manner of Jörg Buttgereits Nekromantik 1987. Great stuff.

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