Sunday, July 5, 2009
Paul and Jeanne Bellmer (Rufus Sewell and Emmanuelle Béart) are a couple living in Thailand, still reeling from the loss of a child to a recent tsunami. But when a brief glimpse on a DVD offers the tantalizing hope that, just maybe, their son is still alive, the couple goes on a trying, soul-torturing odyssey to recover that which has been forcibly taken from them.
That’s Fabrice Du Welz’s Vinyan in a nutshell, and it’s another film from the Belgian writer/director that stretches the boundaries of the modern horror film.
As with Du Welz’s Calvaire, Vinyan is endurance cinema that doesn’t travel the usual Grand Guignol route, instead focusing on the mental and emotional tortures visited upon its unfortunate protagonists.
Anchoring the production are the raw, turbulent performances by Sewell and Béart, whose Bellmers are a husband and wife severely damaged by their loss. Guilt and grief weigh them down, Jeanne struggling to retain the belief that she will see her son alive again, while Paul can do nothing except stand by her.
Largely eschewing the blood-and-guts school of thought, Vinyan finds much of its horror in the minefield of emotions that lies between individuals who’ve experienced the brutal lashings of cruel fate. Amidst the turmoil of love and loss, Du Welz mines for the existential terror that dwells in the thin line separating hope from delusion.
Which is not to say that Vinyan is completely bloodless. It has its visceral moments as well, but it’s in the sweat-soaked, rain-drenched desperation, in the fragile mental state of the bereaved, that the narrative finds its most compelling elements.
Oh, and just so you know it isn’t all weighty matters at hand here, it’s also got Julie Dreyfus (Kill Bill’s luscious Sofie Fatale), and one Petch Osathanugrah looking like a crazy-a$$ anime character come to flesh-and-blood life.
And it’s shot by Benoit Debie, who also shot Calvaire for Du Welz, as well as Gaspar Noe’s infamous Irreversible. (There’s a seedy, neon-drenched, handheld sequence early in Vinyan that actually elicits vague echoes of Irreversible.)
What more could you want?
Once described by Du Welz as “a mix of The Brood by [David] Cronenberg and [Nicolas Roeg’s] Don’t Look Now,” Vinyan is a disturbing descent into the netherworld born from the anguish of loss.
It’s a potent sophomore effort from Du Welz that further solidifies his stature as a director willing and eager to test the limits of the cinematic envelope.
One wonders what could be in store should he decide to rip the envelope wide open…
Parting shot: Vinyan went up against the likes of Sean Ellis’ The Brøken, Kim Ji-woon’s Joheunnom nabbeunnom isanghannom (The Good, the Bad, the Weird), and Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs, for Best Film at Sitges 2008, though ultimately, Jennifer Lynch’s Surveillance took home the big prize.
(Vinyan French OS courtesy of impawards.com; images courtesy of carpenoctem.pl.)