Monday, May 03, 2004


* ½ (out of four)
Seen 2 May 2004 at Somerville Theater #3 (Independant Film Fetival of Boston 2004)

Every once in a while, I see a movie - often involving kids - and I have to wonder, who in the heck is the audience for this? The uncomfortable realization then comes that, since I'm sitting in the audience with a ticket for which I had handed over money a couple hours previously, it must be me. And think, just a couple days before I was wondering if I was some sort of perv for wanting to see Mean Girls or Ella Enchanted.

It starts out well enough. A boy from some unnamed foreign country (he may be Middle Eastern, or South American, or something else) gets off a bus stop. He is being used as a mule by drug dealers, who hand him a roll of toilet paper and wait for their shipment. A noise in the woods spooks them, though, and the boy is shot as he's trying to run. Meanwhile, a very serious-looking young girl named Claire experiences her first period while practicing the piano in her big, beautiful, sterile house. Ashamed, she runs off to the garden shed, where she finds the boy.

The sensible thing, of course, would be to scream, run back to the house, tell her foster father that there's a boy in the shed and he's bleeding. Then, the boy would get medical attention, they (rather than Claire) would find the tiny bags of cocaine in his stool (among the first on a long list of scenes we really didn't need to see), the police would be called, and things would perhaps not end happily, but there would be a sort of logic to the procedings. Instead, of course, Claire opts to bandage the boy up herself, admittedly showing great resourcefulness, but apparently never realizing that she's in over her head, even though they don't have any languages in common.

On the subject of language - this film is mainly in English, even though it was filmed in Luxembourg and the Netherlands, with a young Danish lead in Laurien Van den Broeck. Why? I guess English-language films sell better internationally than those in French, German, or Danish. I can't think of any other reason. It's not important, though I did spend an inordinate amount of time trying to place Claire's accent.

Not that I think it will sell much anyway - I don't think there's much of an audience for a movie that is so mean-spirited toward kids. Not that Claire's an especially nice girl - she is, in her way, as distant and aloof as her parents - but she's smart and relatively capable if not necessarily possessed of good sense. She was abandoned as a baby and her adopted parents' lack of attention has made her self-sufficient but unable to trust, we initially get why she wants to handle everything on her own. Miss Van den Broeck gives an exceptional performance, really, considering how little dialog she has and that it's not in her native language.

But how much are we as an audience supposed to take without there being some sort of point to it? Movies like Thirteen and Lilja 4-Ever at least seem to have something they want to say; Moonlight just piles violence and suffering one on top of the other without serving some larger goal. Why do we see the boy bite a chunk out of a man's ear without any reaction or reason? Is there any point to the drug use? And I normally don't like to mention what happens in a film's last act, but what is gained by showing Claire (who must be all of twelve if she's just had her first period) nearly raped, then having sex with the boy? Topless? And then the nihilistic scene after that? What am I supposed to feel except for dirty?

I wonder how these movies are made, especially in Europe, where it seems there are dozens of production companies and creditors in the opening credits of every film. I'm stunned by that many people and groups wanting to be a part of something as exploitive and nasty as this.

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