Thursday, February 12, 2009


Title: Calvaire -aka- The Ordeal (2004)
Dir: Fabrice Du Welz
Rating: *** out of 5 stars

What the fuck is wrong with Belgian people? That question crossed my mind at least 10 times while watching Calvaire. This is one bizarre, disturbing, and thought-provoking film. It can be slow, and it is definitely not for everyone, but it is worth a look, especially if you like films such as Deliverance and Straw Dogs.

Marc Stevens is a traveling singer who does gigs at nursing homes, where all the lonely women throw themselves at him. On his way to a show in Belgium, his van breaks down and he takes shelter at a local inn while waiting on a mechanic. Although things go smoothly at first, Marc soon learns the hard way that the townfolk are insane and have mistaken him for someone else.

Calvaire's atmosphere is very dark and gritty. This is not surprising, since the cinematographer is Benoît Debie. Much like Irréversible, this film has a knack for making you feel disturbed with a touch of nausea. The isolated, wooded setting also contributes to that pervasive creepiness.

Laurent Lucas (who reminds me of a young Willem Dafoe) is good as Marc, though I wish his character did a little more escaping/fighting and a lot less weeping. Even better are the crazy locals, namely the innkeeper played by Jackie Berroyer. He is great at being warm and welcoming, and then completely bonkers. Side note: if Americans ever remake this movie, I want to see Paul Giamatti in this role.

As I said, this film is definitely not for everybody. It is completely bizarre and occasionally unnerving. The many comparisons to Texas Chainsaw Massacre are not justified, but the ones to Deliverance definitely are. Just imagine Gaspar Noé made it instead of Boorman and then you can start to understand how twisted Calvaire is.