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I wish to start saying, that this movie is definitely not enjoyable at
all. By the means of having a great fun time at the movie-theatre.
So if you are mostly to Hollywood-Popcorn-Horror-Flics and that's exactly what you expect of a good movie, do yourself a favor and don't watch CALVAIRE.
If you like European Art-house Cinema and are also devoted to real rough and downbeating horror movies, you should have a closer look at this interestingly done work of Fabrice Du Welz.
The young director puts the viewer always in the middle of what is shown on the screen. The beautiful photographed frames are supported through the high grained film material. It nearly looks like a dokumentary, but without the handhold camera style. No bright colours have been used, the colours even look washed out, slightly fading into grey. So the look is very authentic. The Settings are all natural. There is no artificial studio-stage touch in this movie. No additional lightning seems to be added. This style helps the movie to draw the audience perfect into it. Shot on an aspect ratio of 2.35 : 1, this movie is a real cineatic feast when taking part in a movie theatre presentation. Its frames stand for themselves. The power of the pictures (like paintings) speak a more clearly language than every average dialogue in a Hollywood production does. This is cineastic story telling at its best. I also liked the extremely slow pasted development of the story.
The movie's start-off could be made by FRANCOIS TRUFFAUT. Even the protagonist, Marc Stevens (played by LAURENT LUCAS) reminded me a bit of JEAN PIERRE LEAUD (he portraited the character of Antoine Doinel in 4 of Truffaut's films). He performs a chansons singer, who is about to travel through the country for his next concert to give. Unfortunately his traveling van stops in the middle of nowhere. Not enough to be stucked deep in an unknown forest it is - of course - raining cats and dogs. Guided by a young man, who is searching the forest for his missing dog, Stevens reaches an auberge (motel) by foot. The owner, Mr. Bartel lives all alone in there. The auberge has been closed a long time ago for the public. But the kindly behaving old man has preserved the rooms as they where when guests used to be around. Bartel is a man who seems to earn his living with farming. No other houses are build near his estate. Stevens is offered to stay for the night and Bartel promises to get and repair his broken van the next morning. During the dinner Bartel tells Stevens that he was left by his wife and we feel, that he's still suffering from that loss. He seems to be most happy about that his guest is an artist, acclaiming he was an artist too. Not a singer but a comedian, who even won a price for his humor. By the way, his gone wife had been a passionded artist too, so he tells. After a short performance of Stevens, Bartel begins crying. Bartel is fascinated by the singers passion to his art and becomes very sad due to his lost past in which he obviously still lives (imaginary).
Stevens goes to bed after this conversation, Thinking, he will be able to continue his journey the next day. But his unexpected rest at the auberge will be unwillingly prolonged for a much longer time than he could imagine at that moment.
What happens next is a slow pasted tour de force of pain, agony, fear and hatred in the strangest way ever filmed for the big screen. Including the disturbing sickness of Bartel's mind. But he is not the only weird guy around this area. The most over-the-top portraited hillbillies ever shown up in a movie will appear in the near future to enlight the audience with laughs and - followed up - with the helpless fear of "what will there be next?". Have a seat, take a roller-coaster ride with a movie which leaves the shocks of THE Texas CHAINSAW MASSACRE and STRAW DOGS easily behind. I understand this one as a very, very black comedy which is "enjoyable" for open minded people with a cineastic interest.
There are some things in this movie which may let one think, this is an analogy to the passion of Jesus Christ. Some symbols cannot be overseen. The conversation about passion for the things you do by heart are significant. At the end, all things become clear (I don't want to spoil it here) and the audience is left alone with it. A very long end-credit sequence follows. Like in the movie SEUL CONTRE TOUS (I STAND ALONE/ MENSCHENFEIND) from director GASPAR NOÉ, an open end is presented. In Noé's movie a road is shown, leading to nowhere (or to an unknown future), while in Du Welz' movie we are left alone in a wide opened cold and foggy snow frozen forest area. We listen to the sounding wind. It blows and blows - not willing to end its cruel howling. No music, just the never ending isolation.
If you see this "wonderful" movie you'll remember this howling a long time.
8 out of 10
P.S. please excuse possible spelling mistakes
Saw this film as part of the Gala Opening for the Cinemuerte Horror
Film Festival in Vancouver recently. I kinda knew what to expect from
reading a description of the film before going in, but it still was
quite the cinematic experience.
Suffice it to say, I'd be hard-pressed to recommend this film to anyone in my particular circle of friends (well, maybe a few), but the film had me mesmerized, and since I do enjoy dark cinema, I'd have to say I certainly enjoyed it for what it was. There were images and scenes in the film that stayed with me after, and it certainly had a noticeable effect on the audience attending. Some liked it. Some hated it. Some didn't enjoy the "pig squealing"...like one girl in the audience noted after the film had ended. (you'll understand more towards the latter-half of the film) Elements of "Deliverance", "Southern Comfort", "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" are all here, with more dark humour involved. Dark, very dark humour.
The cinematography was incredible. You've never seen the wilderness shot to look so menacing, yet maintaining a strange, dread-filled beauty. And yet it also seems endless, as if civilization is nowhere near where the events in the film take place. I unconsciously wrapped my arms around myself during the movie, from both the tension in the film, and from feeling I myself was out there in the chill of the woods.
I won't go into the plot-line, since a few others already have, but this film gives good credence to making sure that if you go driving in the country, your engine has had a recent tune-up, and you've got plenty of gas in the tank. AND to make sure you're cautious about the seeming kindness of strangers...
there aren't much horror movies made in Belgium and when they are, they
make a bad example... i'm still a bit ashamed that something like
'Alias' from Jan Verheyen was made here.
but this is a whole other story. this movie has been promoted as a horror movie and that's a wrong starters point: this is more of a psychological thriller in the line of 'misery'. there are some parallels with 'texas chainsaw' - hence the townspeople, cut-off from socialization and socially incapable - but i feel that it is smarter in a way.
i won't tell much about the story because the lesser you know, the more surprising it will be. but you'll never look at cows and pigs in the same way, i can assure you that.
what strikes me about the movie is the perfect cinematography: this is low budget but the scenes and the camera-moves are well thought. the characters are all portrayed excellent and the director takes an interesting twist: the lead person (the scream-king) is not so likable and you almost love the psychotic(s).
the best scene must be the scene in the bar with the piano (look out for that) and the climax with the 'village people' (i put it cryptic not to spoil...) the director describes it as a hardcore version of 'life of Brian' and when you've seen it, you will agree. brian - or Jesus as was meant - has a pretty difficult time.
i would give it a 9 overall (because every movie has its flaws even when I don't notice them), but i gave it a 10 because this piece of subversive cinema was made in my country...
certainly, this is a must-see for every horror-thriller fanatic but for people who like disturbing movies like 'deliverance': you won't be disappointed, not at all. and for the others, just try this!
Wow...the other review is nuts. This movie was fantastic!
I got a chance to thank the director (in french) after the film. The lighting was unbelievable, the acting was great, the directing was great, and the script was fantastic. Definitely not for the weak of stomach...pretty gory and painful at times, but let up with some hilarious moments (ie. the dance). They shot on super 16 which gave it an incredible grainy quality...very 1980s sci-fi/horror (which i liked). It was very dark with extremely high contrast, and some beautiful locations. The end seemed like a bit of a let-down at first, but the more i think about it the more i like it. (won't give it away though).
Suffice to say it was gorgeously shot, great cast/crew, and a interesting take on insanity and love. The director described it as a 'love story'...ermmm...yes? with a crucifixion...and pig buggery...
anyways, I would LOVE to see this get a release (without a re-edit), or at lest a distribution deal. It really deserves it.
This was the best film I saw at London's 2004 Frightfest, much better
than the over-hyped but ultimately disappointing Haute Tension, the
other French language horror entry.
Superficially this is the Belgian take on the "crazed hillbilly" sub-genre of Last House on the Left or Deliverance, but in it's mixture of horror and surreal humor this is closer to something like Roman Polanski's The Tenant. The portrait of an isolated society who lives without women is taken to its logical and often shocking extremes. There is a scene at the local bar which must rank among the strangest and most memorable set pieces in recent years. The film is very atmospheric and the cinematography is stunning. You can almost feel the chill of the winter forest it takes place in.
Hopefully Calvaire (it's English title was The Ordeal when I saw it) will get a proper release in English speaking territories, though I can see that this is a much more difficult sell than the derivative calling card exercise that was Haute Tension.
Belgium might not be one of the world's premier film-making nations,
but they sure know how to make a good bizarre exploitation flick with
the power to get under your skin! Calvaire might not be a film to
please the mainstream horror fan, but for those like me who are into
the darker, more extreme side of cinema; this film is a treat indeed.
Director Fabrice Du Welz has packed his film with a plethora of bizarre
sexual acts; which is best illustrated by the fact that the hinted
bestiality isn't all that shocking in comparison to some of the other
character's delights. The film works from a very simple premise that
has been seen in many other films, but it's what comes after that is
important. We centre on Marc Stevens; a singer that is unfortunate
enough to break down in the middle of a forest during winter. He takes
up residence in a near-by farm house owned by a slightly odd old man,
who apparently used to have a comedy act. What Marc doesn't bank on is
the insanity of his host, which comes out in the form of an ordeal in
which Marc is tortured, beaten and humiliated in just about the
strangest ways possible...
The biggest standout of this production is director Fabrice Du Welz, who gives the film credibility in spite of its subject matter with some inventive usage of the camera which succeeds both in creating a dark and ominous atmosphere, as well as generating a surreal tidal wave of disorientation. The way that the camera swirls round the deranged characters at a 'family' scene, for example, helps to give the film a nasty tint that excellently compliments the subject material. It has to be said that, at times, the bizarre sexual practices get a little out of hand, and it's hard to really take seriously; although in a way this helps to further implement the stark and surreal atmosphere, which in turn helps the film to achieve its aim of shocking its audience. The acting isn't a strong point, however, as some of the central performances are more than a little flat; although this isn't a massive problem as exploitation cinema has never been known for great performances, and the set of actors do succeed in getting the film's point across. Overall, this is certainly one of the weirdest films to be released in the last few years and comes highly recommended to fans of cult cinema!
"Calvaire", a.k.a "The Ordeal" is mainly a Belgian production and being a Belgian myself I'm rather proud of that, although it also once again illustrates that the only cult and controversial horror films coming from this country pretty much all revolve on sexually perverted characters! "Lucker" served us the diary of a necrophiliac and the ultra-rare film "Vase de Noces" (which I haven't seen yet) handles about the sexual relationship between a farmer and his pig. At several points in the film, "Calvaire" hints at bestiality as well and the least you can say about all the characters, even the unimportant ones, is that they're heavily struggling with their hormones all together. The honest and hard-working singer Marc Stevens is on his way to a Christmas gig when his van breaks down on a rural road near a remote village. A loyal young man guides Marc to Paul Bartel's godforsaken hotel and that's where the madness really begins. Bartel is obtrusive and overly friendly at first but gradually his traumatized mind begins to mistake Marc for his own adulterous wife who left him. For Marc begins a nightmare in which he's dressed up in woman's clothes, tortured and forced to have sexual intercourse. Even when he manages to escape into the forests he isn't safe, as all the local rednecks are deranged deviants as well. The subject matter of "Calvaire" sounds pretty devastating, but it actually comes across as a black comedy most of the time. It's an absurd film with disturbing undertones and grisly images, yet the surreal atmosphere and the overuse of stereotypes almost makes it a comical experience. You can summarize this film as being a demented and typically European interpretation of classic backwoods-thrillers such as "Deliverance" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". The hillbillies are crazier, the situations are more grotesque and the perversion is a lot less subtle. Especially considering "Calvaire" was the debut project for most of the crew members involved, the film is exceptionally well-made! The cinematography is stunning to observe most of the time, with beautiful images of large and ominous forests, and the interior filming locations are dark & creepy. The acting performances are a bit weak sometimes but still endurable. Regretfully, the script also features a couple of tedious moments and it leaves quite a bit of questions unanswered when the film is finished. Nonetheless, "Calvaire" is destined to be a cult favorite in the near future (if it isn't one by now) already and fans of odd, offbeat cinema can't afford themselves to miss it!
Fabrice Du Weiz's thriller mines "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre",
"Deliverance" and "Straw Dogs", Still, it is unique enough and original
enough in its cinematic eccentricities to be noteworthy.
A travelling showman (Laurent Lucas) finds himself in hostile territory when his van breaks down. A local jack-of-all-trades (Jackie Berroyer) helps him out, but is soon helping himself to Lucas's van, mind and body.
The film takes interesting, perverted turns and dishes the atmosphere thick. A fog-shrouded chase through the woods is almost surreal, and a fantastic dance sequence with hillbilly-like weirdos works a twisted treat and foreshadows a surplus of gloom and doom.
The violence is not plentiful, but the sense of threat is always present. Benoit Debie, who photographed Gasper Noe's IRREVERSIBLE, creates memorable, haunting images and makes expert use of the terrific locales.
A solid, oddball shocker, but overlong at times.
If you would ask me to give a short description of 'Calvaire' by
Fabrice du Welz, I am forced to give you a plain description of a plain
and dull horror movie. The car of a young man name Mark Stevens breaks
down deep into the forest. Luckily he finds a hostel to spend the
night, so he can start repairing his car tomorrow at daylight. But the
owner of the hostel doesn't seem to be as guestfree as he appeared to
But as this movie develops it appears that this is not your everyday horrorflick. The nightmare Mark Stevens awaits is far worse than anyone would expect. Torture and humiliation await him in a form that will turn your stomach 3 times around. And not only because of what you see and what is happening, but mostly because the characters are so convincingly developed.
So don't get misled of all those short filmdescriptions. It may sound like a standard description, but ends as one of the most sick films I have ever seen. It makes you wonder what must be the reason people like to watch this kind of films. Maybe it's not just because of the frightening parts, but most of all, the ending. Again, an ending not like an everyday horror, but one that will make you think a few days after seeing 'Calvaire'.
Marc Stevens(Laurent Lucas)is a cheesy cabaret-style singer whose main audiences are the old people's homes of backwater Belgium.Travelling to perform at a wedding during Christmas week,Stevens is stranded when his mobile-home/trailer breaks down near a remote village.He seeks assistance at the local inn,run by a chatty oldster named Paul Bartel (Jackie Berroyer),but this turns out to be a decidedly unwise move..."Calvaire" is a truly bizarre mix of surreal comedy and survival horror.The film is filled with gallery of psychotics,inbred freaks and sexual deviants.For example Bartel thinks the hapless Marc is his wife Gloria,a singer who recently left him for another man.The cinematography by Benoit Debie is beautiful,unfortunately the tension is clearly lacking.The bestiality scene is quite short and there is only a little bit of gruesome violence including a crucifixion of Marc.Among the actors playing the villagers are Philippe Nahon and Jo Prestia,both best known for their work with Gaspar Noe on the likes of "Irreversible".So if you are a fan of controversial French cinema you can't go wrong with "Calvaire".9 out of 10.
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