After the Great War, traumatized Yser front hero Casimir Van De Velde returns home. He's not amused to see his bitchy sister Coralie turned it into a virtual orphanage and home for other ...
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After the Great War, traumatized Yser front hero Casimir Van De Velde returns home. He's not amused to see his bitchy sister Coralie turned it into a virtual orphanage and home for other juvenile strays while their father, an even worse traumatized sniper but now utter lush, has to be chained in a barn. Yet Casimir soon takes to the kids and grows utterly protective of the irregular commune, which displeases the municipal authorities, who want the minors placed in official care and the land used for a project of the mayor's business ally. French colonial cavalry veteran Latiff was hired into a band of ruffians to chase them, but decides to join instead and fight off the fiends.Written by
Perhaps "Schellebelle 1919" doesn't entirely deserve a flawless 10/10 rating, but I still wholeheartedly want to give it, simple because this is the most enthusiastic, spirited, imaginative and courageous cinematic project ever undertaken in Belgium. To start with a bit of background information: the film is the result of an entire village collaborating with each other. It's not the work of a professional production studio, but the accomplishment of devoted volunteers with the welcome financial help of local companies sponsoring the project. Acknowledged actor Johan Heldenbergh happens to live in Schellebelle (which is located in East-Flanders, close to Ghent) and he provided a script and co-directed the film with the help of the town's mayor Kenneth Taylor (who did do some TV-work previously). But Heldenbergh didn't claim ownership to play the lead role and, in fact, the only famous – in Flanders at least – faces you will see in "Schellebelle 1919" are those of actors and actresses appearing in minuscule and insignificant cameo appearances. The actual cast exists of anonymous and everyday Schellebelle villagers, either members of the local theater club or randomly appointed volunteers! This set up alone makes the film totally unique, especially because most of these amateurs give away stupendous performances, and then let's not forget these people also still have a wondrously endearing and powerfully compelling story to tell as well!
Admittedly the plot of "Schellebelle 1919" is somewhat clichéd, predictable and overly sentimental towards the end, but I guarantee that you won't be bothered by this for a single minute. It's a story of family love, unconditional friendship, ordinary middle-class heroes, processing war traumas and even a story about good versus evil. Whilst fighting for their country in the hellish trenches of World War I, father and son Van de Velde receive a letter from teenage daughter Coralie stating that their beloved wife and mother died from an illness. When they return home in 1919, the son depressed and the father struggling with alcoholism, they learn that Coralie single-handedly took custody over 25 (!) orphaned children in their family farm. Now that the war is over, local authorities insist to transfer the children to an orphanage and the corrupt mayor Slosse has put his greedy eye on the geographically interesting Van de Velde farming estate. Coralie and her brother Casimir are ready to fight back, with the help of all the youthful but toughened children. "Schellebelle 1919" is a masterful achievement, with a nearly authentic contemporary post-WWI atmosphere (like beautifully sober photography, great costumes and an astounding soundtrack) and numerous sequences that will genuinely send cold shivers down your spine. The kids are guaranteed to break your heart (and water your eyes) and particularly little Frans' life story is very saddening. Lately Belgian cinema receives a lot of international recognition and respect, thanks to such films as "Broken Circle Breakdown" and "Rundskop", but personally I prefer this kind of modest but integer and noble little movies.
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