This one is definitely for the grown-ups, or possibly very mature and intelligent teens. This film won’t appeal to anyone expecting a mystery where everything is served up on a silver platter. You definitely need some mental stamina if you plan on tackling Left Bank.
Left Bank, or Linkeroever, is a Belgian Horror thriller directed by Pieter Van Hees, starring an ensemble cast of Flemish actors.
Read my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: Marie (Eline Kuppens), an aspiring track star on her way to the European Championships, suffers a devastating setback when she is diagnosed with an immune infection and forced to rest. To pass the time, Marie moves in with Bobby (Matthias Schoenaerts), her charismatic new boyfriend who lives in a deluxe apartment in Antwerp’s stylish Left Bank. After learning the apartment’s previous tenant mysteriously disappeared, Marie becomes obsessed with the mystery, all the while suffering from headaches, nausea, tension and insomnia. As Bobby dismisses her theories and fears, Marie delves deeper into her investigation, growing suspicious of her loving boyfriend and ritzy building, whose long-hidden secrets have nightmarish consequences.
From the very beginning, Left Bank oozes melancholy with gray skies that never clear. Even before her diagnosis, Marie is unhappy and discontent—though others believe she has reason to celebrate. She’s one of the best runners in Europe, but it’s not good enough. It’s like something is missing from Marie’s soul. And while the excitement of a new relationship sets off a spark behind her eyes, even that fire quickly dies. She seems ready to give up on life and even fantasizes about “starting over” from scratch (a theme that becomes very important as the film progresses).
Left Bank is like a puzzle with many pieces, and the filmmakers leave it up to us to put it all together. There’s a lot going on here, with enough Horror for at least three films. Seemingly disparate threads fray and come together at different points in the story.
There’s religious Horror in the Pagan history of the site where the Left Bank apartments were built. Since pre-Christian times, the area was known as a refuge for witches, plague victims, and other undesirables. Marie’s hippy-dippy crystal-wearing supposedly-psychic mother claims she can still feel evil vibes from those dark times. A sacrificial pit known as “The Devil’s Vagina” still exists in the catacombs beneath the buildings. Beware of Cellar #51.
There’s a lot of body-Horror going on in Left Bank as well. First, there’s Marie’s mysterious infection; despite an initial diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, it is later revealed that her blood tests were inconclusive. Then, when she moves in with Bobby, weird things begin happening in her panties: irregular periods and a strange black powdery residue. And finally, an injured knee becomes swollen, discolored, and even sprouts long matted hairs. Her once athletic body seems in shambles.
Also noteworthy is the theme of reincarnation, which may or may not relate to the Pagan aspects of the story (as human sacrifice is addressed at length).
The truth is, I couldn’t explain things with any certainty even if I wanted to. I’m not exactly sure what to make of the dream symbolism or the references to Sanhain. I have no idea how to explain a rodent bursting forth from an infected wound. But such issues never vex me, as I rather enjoy having these themes and images circling in my brain, striving to make connections.
Left Bank won’t wrap things up with a tidy little bow, and this will prevent most mainstream cinema fans from appreciating, or even attempting to enjoy this film. But for those willing to accept the challenge, Left Bank is a meaningful (if complex) Horror viewing experience.
3.5 out of 5 Skull Heads.
|Directed by||Pieter Van Hees|
|Written by||Pieter Van Hees