Can’t you just feel the excitement? Picturenose is approaching its 300th post (this would be number 294), so a good time to talk about Vinyan (2008), the most recent film by Belgian horror master, Fabrice Du Welz.
Regular PN readers will be only too aware how well Du Welz’s first film, Calvaire (The Ordeal) (2004) went down with yours truly – as a lifelong horror fan (but only the good stuff, mind), it numbers among the most frightening films I have ever seen and, as I confessed with my initial review, actually gave me a nightmare.
So, what of Vinyan? Well, it’s a very different ‘kettle of monster’ and, not unlike Lars Von Trier’s more recent Antichrist (2009) , touches on places in a relationship that you really don’t want to go, in addition to the more traditional ‘aren’t the woods scary?’ games that both films play.
In fact the story (co-written by Du Welz, Oliver Blackburn (Donkey Punch (2008) and David Greig (The Architect (2006)) may have suffered somewhat from mismarketing in the wake of Du Welz’s ‘signature dish’ – while the story is both powerful and disturbing, it is really no more a traditional ‘horror’ film than Von Trier’s.
Instead, it is a very well acted and filmed study, a la Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, or Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) of how a descent into darkness, no matter how well-intentioned, always demands the heaviest of prices.
A young couple, Jeanne and Paul Bellmer (Emmanuelle Béart and Rufus Sewell) are coming to terms with what they can only assume is the death of their son – he was lost in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which killed nearly 230,000 people in eleven countries, and inundated coastal communities with waves up to 30 metres (100 feet) high. Thailand was among the hardest hit, but reports from the afflicted communities tell of communities of orphaned children who have lived in the jungle since the disaster, fending for themselves.
By chance, Jeanne watches a film about the plight of these children, and is convinced that she sees her son Joshua. Believing that, at the very least, looking for their son will be therapy for his wife, Paul agrees to a trip into dangerous Thai-Burmese territory, where Thaksin Gao (Petch Osathanugrah) begins to help in their search among the ‘Vinyan’ (lost souls). Darkness is descending…
While not as powerful as the Dafoe/Gainsbourg ‘partnership’ in Antichrist, a remarkably mature evocation of relationship and spiritual breakdown is achieved by a director who also is clearly only growing in maturity. Those expecting big scares will be disappointed but, nevertheless, the omnipresent sense of dread, coupled with Béart’s truly troubling take on a mind at the end of its tether, make this a more than worthy watch, with an ending that turns the screw very tight, and which will remain with you for long afterwards, as we find out exactly what the heights and depths of a mother’s love can mean.
96 mins. In English and Thai.