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13-year-old Gunther Strobbe grows up surrounded by alcohol, trash and his completely useless father and uncles. Slowly but surely, he's being prepared for the same hapless life. Can he defy his destiny?
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Koen De Graeve
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Koen De Bouw,
Werner De Smedt,
Elise and Didier fall in love at first sight, in spite of their differences. He talks, she listens. He's a romantic atheist, she's a religious realist. When their daughter becomes seriously ill, their love is put on trial.
Felix van Groeningen
A brutal home-jacking goes hopelessly wrong. Dave, one of the two robbers, manages to run off, leaving his brother Kenneth behind. Four years later, Kenneth is released from prison and much has changed. Dave has his life back on track and is trying to help Kenneth however possible, but is witnessing how the highly strung Kenneth tries to win back his ex-girlfriend Sylvie.Written by
Trailer Trash from Belgium. Not the masterpiece it's said to be, but a good film.
What is it with films from Flanders that they seemingly MUST feature either farmers or marginal people in order to be successful? Prior to 1995 it seems like movies from here only revolved on farmer families battling against poverty and various other types of misery, whereas after 1995 the farmers were replaced by marginal people, but they were still battling against poverty and various other types of misery. Our most famous cinematic export product, the Oscar-nominated "Rundskop" (aka "Bullhead") even features a combination of both! Marginal farmers, hooray! But the term marginal is far too light to describe the lead characters in "The Ardennes", though. They're the equivalent of trailer trash!
"The Ardennes" almost feels untouchable here in Flanders, Belgium. You're almost not allowed to say something negative about it. Ever since the release in 2015 - and even before already - this film has been incredibly popular and benefiting from a tremendous media buzz. Everybody loves it, audiences as well as critics, and I honestly wonder why it's so well-received and successful. Admittedly it's a competent film and much better than the overrated "Rundskop" or the pretentious but substantially void "De Helaasheid der Dingen" (aka "The Misfortunates"), but "The Ardennes" nevertheless remains a simplistic and clichéd tale with predictable twists and protagonists you can't possibly sympathize with. Especially the first half feels long, tedious and overly familiar. Fans of the film will undoubtedly call it a harrowing and confronting portrait of a suffering family in the lower middle class of Belgian society, but the simple truth is that it's a form of 'disaster tourism'. You're looking at trailer trash people and you're glad you're not like them. These people eat Flemish stew on Christmas Eve, listen to loud 90s house music in their ugly car, behave and talk like racists and participate in miserable drug-rehabilitation group sessions. There aren't any underlying messages or lessons to be drawn. Personally I'm 100% fine with that, but then please stop pretending it's a relevant film that shows how difficult it is to re-integrate into society after a prison sentence or how to get your life back on track after a severe drug addiction. "The Ardennes" doesn't do that, and I don't think writers Robin Pront and Jeroen Perceval ever intended their script to become a social requiem. In fact, the story can be described best as: the trailer trash version of Cain and Abel. Two brothers, jealousy and uncontrollable anger resulting in violence.
Please don't get me wrong; "The Ardennes" honestly isn't a bad film, but it simply never lives up to the praise and compliments it is receiving. That's hardly the film's own fault. The second half, primarily set in the titular Ardennes, is more exciting and introduces a few fantastically eccentric supportive characters, like this hideous drag queen Joyce (Sam Louwyck) and the psychotic ex-con Stef (Jan Bijvoet). I swear, those two deserve a spin-off film of their own! The climax isn't too difficult to foretell, especially if you're familiar with mainstream thrillers, but it still comes as a minor shock even if you know what is going to happen. Lead actor Kevin Janssens deserves extra respect for the performance he gives. I read that the role was originally reserved for Matthias Schoenaerts (pretty much the only Flemish actor to have success in Hollywood). Taking over from him surely couldn't have been an easy task, but Janssens truly gives away a stellar performance. I didn't care much for him as an actor before, but he underwent a phenomenal metamorphosis here. The same can be said for Robin Pront. The film was supposed to be directed by Michael Roskam ("Bullhead") at first, but eventually Pront directed the scenario that he co-wrote himself. Kudos to him, because in his debut feature he certainly demonstrations copious amounts of talent, style, vision and surefootedness.
Oh, and one last thing: I love the soundtrack! I don't care that it gets linked to criminals, drug-abusers and lowlifes; - Belgian house/dance music from the 1990s is awesome. Search for songs like "The House of House", "The First Rebirth" and "Rigor Mortis/ Flesh & Bones" on YouTube and concur with me!
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