Belgica (2016) Poster


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Rise and fall of a Belgian bar
rubenm5 March 2016
In this film about a famous bar, the drugs turn up after about twenty minutes. A few minutes later, there's the rock and roll. And right after that, the sex. The holy trinity of youthful rebellion is very much present in 'Belgica', the new movie by Belgian film maker Felix Van Groeningen.

This film is heavily inspired by Van Groeningen's own life: his father was the owner of the famous bar 'Charlatan' in Ghent, which is the inspiration for the bar 'Belgica' in the film. The bar is owned by two brothers, who expand the rather modest café with a concert hall and a VIP-bar. But with the success of the bar come all sorts of problems. The two brothers drift apart, and in the end the bar becomes a burden and a source of conflict.

The film contains many scenes of heavy partying, drinking and dancing. But the story is about the relationship between the brothers, who are rather different in character. The youngest is business-minded and responsible, the oldest is a troublemaker who neglects his wife and child in order to enjoy the sex, drugs and rock and roll in the Belgica.

The problem is that this contrast between the two characters is a bit meager to carry the whole film. There are some side stories, mostly about girls, but on the whole the story is rather flimsy. This film is not a careful dissection of brotherhood, but a straightforward account of the rise and fall of a bar.

The cinematography is above average: the partying crowds are nicely filmed in varying styles. Sometimes in a warm glow, sometimes in cold and hard lighting. There's also a lot of nice music in the film. But on the whole, this film lacks the subtlety and originality of Van Groeningen's previous movie, 'The Broken Circle Breakdown'.
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Rich in texture, 'Belgica' is a visually compelling and impactful film.
cinemacy27 January 2016
While I haven't seen previous work from Belgian/Dutch filmmaker Felix van Groeningen, whose last film, 'The Broken Circle Breakdown', received an Oscar nomination, there is rich enough texture in his new film, 'Belgica', to truly marvel at the craft and storytelling. A festival programmer introduced this film, one of Sundance's opening night selections, with the following statement: "For the last few years, we have been trying to get the World Dramatic category as top-tier as our US Dramatic. This year, thanks in part to this film, I think we finally reached that."

The title comes from the bar in which the film takes place. Two brothers come together to expand what was previously a hole-in-the-wall bar into a full-on destination with a massive remodel. As their dream version of Belgica comes to fruition, so do added layers of conflict that arise with the massive growth: trouble with the new crowds, women, drugs, and differences in opinion on the bar's future. The standout is the photography, which utilizes a broad variety of motifs and themes to display the strife that the two brothers are experiencing. At the beginning when the bar is small, the film carries a red hue with intimacy and fun themes, and as the bar expands beyond their control the color schemes shift toward a harsh and cold blue. That may be the largest visual shift but throughout there are numerous deliberate lighting decisions made to subtly enhance the viewer's understanding of these characters. At the beginning working at Belgica seems like the best thing in the world, and as we go on we see that it comes with a lot of baggage and pain, paralleling a heavy night of partying and drinking.

The film feels a bit long at two hours, especially as the experiences get less jovial. A few of the side stories don't entirely pay off, and most of the bar characters don't have enough time to get fully realized. At the end of the day, this story is about two brothers in different stages of life figuring out how to handle it in the face of their own personal troubles. a very watchable story in that they are each so compelling and realized. No matter how frustrating some of their choices are, we want them to succeed and find what's best. It's this type of character development that lets the film fly.

The characters in Belgica are each so compelling and realized that no matter how frustrating some of their choices are, we want them to succeed. It's this type of character development that lets the film fly. As someone who loves locations as characters, the titular Belgica is, of course, a prominent character of its own- morphing and developing as the plot progresses just like any of the actor's characters. For the experience of vicariously owning and living at a bar, which includes both raging fun and slamming comedowns, 'Belgica' is a compelling piece that visually stands above the crowd.

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A rough night that most will forget.
enzoschollaert5 September 2017
Another musical endeavor is what we get from one of Belgium's finest directors Felix Van Groeningen, after his Oscar-nominated 'The Broken Circle Breakdown'. Instead of looking at the artists making the music, we take a closer look at those providing a venue.

Based on the true history of Ghent's famous bar Charlatan we move to the other side of St. Jacob's Church in Ghent, to Café Belgica (the real bar named Afsnis): a child's dream of two alienated brothers (beautifully acted by Stef Aerts and Tom Vermeir) come true. Of course, these brothers aren't children anymore, and as their success grows, so do their dysfunctional realities beyond the dream.

'Belgica' is great, or at least the cafe is. Rarely have exuberant parties and decadent behaviour been put to the big screen with such style and . The camera flies around at a pace set by the beats of Soulwax in the middle of sweat, flirtation, dancing, yelling, and doing lines. A better party music clip has not been released since The Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up". However, just like any great party, there's a painful hangover looming up ahead. Life outside the cafe is not only boring for our brothers but also for us. Each subplot is dotted with forgetful two-dimensional characters; terrible acting performances (especially Charlotte Vandermeersch - Felix van Groeningen's wife no less - is extremely disturbing); and unoriginal ideas. I wouldn't go as far as saying it's a "style over substance" movie, but the substance that's there is decadently basic.

This isn't on the same level as Van Groeningen's two previous films, it does not shine as much in its originality nor its script. Yet it has made me pumped again for a good party, regardless of the drama afterwards. With its soundtrack playing in the background, I have to admit that I haven't felt that way in a long time.

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To start a business and carried away by its success.
Reno-Rangan4 August 2016
From the director of the Oscar nominated film 'The Broken Circle Breakdown', about two brothers who joins hand to start a new business and what follows is how they carried out by its success. This is not an enjoyable film, but still worth a watch. Because the film theme was the highlight, that focused how people can change when their efforts on something makes to reach its target. This is not for everyone, but youngsters in their 20s, 30s should check it out. It is an inspiring story to start a business of their own, but also warns strongly about the consequences of the outcome.

There is no major story in it to keep expanding every now and then, just evolves around two brothers and other characters surrounding them. From their plan for a new business to its preparation to making it real and then finally triumph. Besides this, their friends and families are covered to reveal how it affects them all once the money starts to flow in. How the drugs, sex and wild party, all the unexpected bad habits bring bad reputation within their circle is the point of the film. Till one of the brothers realise it and take an appropriate step to curb it, but that does really happen is what the film's climax discloses.

"All people are born innocent but most don't stay that way."

It did not look like a film with twist and turns. Especially no villains or the terrible things like that related to the crime world to change the course of the story after reaching a certain point. The first thing we think hearing a film about the bar is the gangster theme. But this is different, the nicer side of what had seen so far on that theme. No guns, no gang fights, but the rest of the things had its share like in a real world. When those things come into effect, that's where this story takes a twist.

Just within its limit, it covered some important events like the advantage and disadvantages for being the night club owners. For example, such club needs internal security and trusted employees. That's how this film filled the void to drag for as long as 2 hours. That was my concern. It was too long to watch a film that does not have any entertaining elements. So remember that it's not a comedy, romance, crime or a thriller, just a drama and for some people it might be too boring drama.

This film is a good lesson to learn without experiencing our own when one knowingly or without knowingly diverts himself to a wrong path. The film had some great performances too, but it is not for having a good time. It is hard to say who's the audience for it, because it is a simple story, but complicated theme with one end loud music, drugs and all, and the other side family, friends et cetera. Overall, not a bad film to view once.

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