Flemish Heaven (2016) Poster

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flemish minimalism
dromasca4 December 2018
'Le Ciel Flamand' ('Flemish Sky'), a film written and directed in 2016 by Peter Monsaert, which I could see at 'Film ArteKino Festival 2018', reminded me of the current minimalist trend that dominates the Romanian films made during the last decade by part of the directors of the Romanian 'new wave'. The same anti-emphatic approach to otherwise painful subjects. The same kind of characters that communicate in many circumstances more by gazes and silence. The same attention to the details of everyday life. The same respect of directors for their actors who are given the freedom to improvise, live their roles and bring their personal nuances into defining the heroes on the screen. The same moderate and often grim tones in the colors palette of cinematic imagery.

Of course, there are also differences, and I'm not just talking about language differences. 'Le Ciel Flamand' has a special cinematography that plays a dual role in locating the action in a rural area of Belgium, somewhere near the border with France, and in the transition between episodes. A perfectly horizontal line of the horizon delineates the plains from the high sky of Flanders. The sky occupies more than three quarters of the frame, as in some of the paintings of the Flemish masters, reminding us that what is happening down here is just a brawl in a much larger universe.

As in many of the Romanian films, the banality of the daily life conceals acute conflicts and difficult moral dilemmas. Sylvie (Sara Vertongen) earns her existence as manager and bartender in a discreet brothel, kind of a family business inherited from her parents. Sometimes she also steps ahead practicing the oldest profession. Her attempts to protect her 6-year-old daughter from the vicissitudes of her "business line" prove to be futile when the girl is attacked, in all likelihood by one of the establishment's clients. There is also a father in this story, Dirk (Wim Willaert), a bus driver, a man full of good intentions, but who did not have the courage to formalize a relationship with Sylvie for unclear reasons, perhaps due to the mother's profession. Peter Monsaert's heroes are actually anti-heroes. They would like to be ordinary people, but the world around them imposes a way of life outside the norm. The society they live in is neither able to support them economically nor do justice when a horrific offense is committed against them. Trying to restore the balance, the calm, and return to seemingly normal life demands a huge price.

Much of the quality of the film is due to the exceptional acting. Both Sara Vertongen and Wim Willaert in the lead roles as well as the whole team of secondary actors succeed in creating a discreet and empathic atmosphere. The topics are difficult, the heroes' actions are questionable if we use the usual criteria, but screenwriter and director Peter Monsaert avoids moralizing judgments. Most viewers will probably forgive the extreme acts of the heroes. But will they forgive to themselves?
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stijn-vanpoelvoorde26 June 2018
The acting is very very good . The movie theme is quite heavy , but is filmed without any urge for sensation , which only contributes to a very serene and introvert movie experience. Applause.
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