Friday, October 6, 2006

Calvaire (2006)

A disturbing little Belgian flick about a singer, Marc, who gets stuck out in the sticks with some sick backwoods men.

Marc has just performed at an old folks home and sets out for his next gig, a large Christmas gala. He has quite a bit of road to travel, but he unfortunately gets stuck in the middle of the forest when his van breaks down. A strange young man, Boris, leads him to an inn where he meets the owner, Mr. Bartel. He spends the night and wakes up to find that Bartel has towed his car from the forest road to the inn, where he can work on it. Bartel is very kind to Marc after finding out they are both entertainers. He makes breakfast for him and promises to work on his van for him.

While Bartel works on his van, Marc decides to take a walk around the countryside. Before departing, Bartel severely warns him not to go into the village, as the villagers are "not like them." After Bartel's impassioned plea, Marc promises not to go near the village. Of course, curiosity gets the better of him and he stumbles upon a barn with some of the local-yokels inside. At first, he just hears squeals and grunts, then the sound of the men talking, and as he gets close enough, he is horrified to find out that the men are taking advantage of some of the livestock.

He hurriedly runs away and heads back to Bartel's. Meanwhile, Bartel is still working on Marc's car. By working I mean breaking and entering and going through Marc's things. He snags Marc's cell phone and some nudie pics. When Marc returns it's almost nightfall. Bartel explains he couldn't fix his car but has called the mechanic, who can't make it out until the next day. Marc is a little worried, but Bartel assures him everything will be right as rain. He cooks Marc a special dinner and proceeds to explain to him how his wife Gloria left him and how before her departure he was such a great comedian. Marc just wants to eat in peace and go to bed, but Bartel begs him to sing one of his songs. Marc finally sings, which brings a tear to Bartel's eye.

The next morning, Bartel is nowhere to be found. Marc finds his cell phone and the pictures in Bartel's room. Bartel finds Marc in his room and won't stop going on about Gloria. Marc begins to panic a little bit, finding that the phone cord has been cut and that all his clothes are gone, replaced by women's clothes. He looks outside his window to see Bartel smashing out the windows of his van and dousing it with gasoline. When Marc tries to stop Bartel, he is knocked out cold by him. After lighting the van on fire, Bartel drags Marc into the house, where he dresses him in women's clothes. When Marc comes too, he finds that Bartel believes him to be his wife that left him.

Marc's trouble doesn't stop there as he also has to contend with the villagers, who also believe him to be Gloria.

I'm not sure what to think of this was pretty disturbing and had its creepy parts, but it just didn't grab my attention. Sure, Bartel and the villagers were pretty twisted and desperate and some scenes were pretty brutal, but it still left something to be desired.

The director, Fabrice Du Welz, did an excellent job with the camera work and the Belgian countryside was gorgeous in winter. The actors all did an excellent job, especially Laurent Lucas as Marc and Jackie Berroyer as Bartel. Still, it felt like something was missing...

The story focuses on the build-up to Marc's imprisonment within the inn, Bartel's descent into madness and then Marc's brutalization. It is not a revenge flick a la I Spit on Your Grave or Deliverance, but still warns of the dangers of those that inhabit the countryside. It also moves slowly and towards the end I was confused by what happens between the villagers and Bartel.

This movie was well done and very unnerving and creepy and despite some flaws definitely deserves a look, just for its plain weirdness.

On Amazon!

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