TIFF 2016: Le Ciel Flamand Review

Discovery 

Unfortunately, I find myself unable to recommend Peter Monsaert’s film – watching it is one of the rare occasions where film criticism feels like work as opposed to pleasure. 

On paper, the premise sounds novel. Sylvie (Sara Vertongen) runs a brothel that was initially started by her mother and father. She’s also the mother of Eline (Esra Vandenbussche), a 6 year old girl who is too curious for her own good. Sylvie, in order to shelter Eline from the facts of life, does not tell her daughter what she does for a living. Yet, she meets Eline for lunch in front of her brothel and tells the inquisitive 6 year old not to go in.

Cardinal movie rule: if you tell someone to not to go in somewhere, they will go in. When Eline ventures into the family business, she falls immediately into a pedophile’s clutches. The rest of the film culminates in emotional distress and willy-nilly attempts to track down said pedophile (the girl is found alive quickly, thankfully). 

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The film’s events seem to merely service a plot rather than arising organically from the characters themselves. The series of coincidences that lead Elina to go into the brothel (on her birthday) is too incredulous to be taken seriously. Sylvie cannot be that naive to have lunch breaks with her daughter in front of her place of employment and not expect trouble (and premeditative trouble arises before the pedophile incident, but Sylvie continues old patterns nevertheless). 

The characters are stuck going around in circles: not learning from their prior experiences and engaging in the same troubling behaviours. If you want to see a character going in circles, watch the running sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey – at least HAL the homicidal computer demonstrates some logic. 

Screening: 

Sunday Sept. 11, 5:30pm @ Scotiabank 4

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Tuesday Sept. 13, 9:30am @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Sunday Sept. 18, 3:15pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Michael McNeely is a deaf-blind film critic and advocate for greater accessibility in our cinemas. Read more about his story here.

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