D’Ardennen (The Ardennes)


After a robbery goes wrong horribly Kenneth (Kevin Janssens) is left behind as Dave (Jeroen Perceval – Bullhead which I am keen to see after watching this film) and Sylvie (Veerle Baetens) make off with nothing. At the trial Kenneth keeps his mouth shut about Dave and Sylvie being part of it and this leaves him being sent down for four years for this crime. And here is where the story really begins with his impending release.

With Kenneth in prison everyone is getting on with their lives, Dave has a steady job, Sylvie is doing very well with her sobriety. Oh, and Dave is now seeing Sylvie, who was with Kenneth before the prison sentence was handed down, but shhh, it’s a secret and no one else knows!

When we see Kenneth released from prison, it is simultaneously a joyous moment and also tinged with sadness at the passing of the calm waters, the unprecedented time of stability that the family have had since Kenneth has been away. This is soon very evident as Kenneth sets about continuing his path that he was on before, even though everyone else has grown up and moved on. Kenneth is violent and controlling, prone to outbursts and unable to maintain a normal level of behaviour for any length of time. Dave is calmer, more in control and, when Kenneth returns, is almost completely subservient to the older brother; not just being the younger but also having the knowledge that Kenneth took the fall for all of their misdemeanours.

This film is more about the inability of Kenneth to reintegrate or to have been reformed, to move on, than the crimes that go on. It is a very interesting shift in dynamic and the effects that this has on everyone’s lives. Kenneth’s inability to change or desire to change causes a retrograde shift in the lives of everyone that he is in contact with. Dave’s life takes a turn for the worse, Sylvie is pestered and pursued by Kenneth, unaware that she is now with Dave.

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Written and directed by Robin Pront this is a fairly dark tale which moves along at a decent pace and finishes the story in some style. The brothers both put in strong performances and their relationship is very believable and natural. Almost the whole way through I was trying to work out where I had seen Sylvie before and then it dawned on me that she was Alicia Verbeek in the excellent The Team. She, too, puts in a really good performance as the beleaguered and ambitious ex-girlfriend/girlfriend.

As far as films go, I think this is only my second Belgian film (after the completely messed up Man Bites Dog), but I have enjoyed a number of recent TV series from this region (The Team & The Clan). IMDB threw up Bullhead as a similar film and, after watching this film, my interest has been raised enough for another Belgian film to be purchased and added to the DVD pile.

Rating:     ½

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