Vinyan is the second directorial offering from Belgium filmmaker Fabrice du Welz; du Welz made quite a splash with his first film, Calvaire in 2004. And while these two movies are very different in terms of plot and mood, they have quite a lot in common in terms of themes and execution; clearly du Welz is establishing trademarks that will make his works instantly recognizable.
Calvarie is a stark and disturbing film that feels reminiscent of Texas Chainsaw Massacres and Frontier(s). Vinyan, on the other hand, is a beautiful epic overflowing with gut-wrenching human drama. What binds these films is the journey that the main characters must endure; in both cases the mental/physical transformations become more important that the stated outcomes of their quests. Vinyan trades the frigid wasteland of the French Alps for the foreboding majesty of the jungles of Southeast Asia.
Check out my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: A couple are looking for their child who was lost in the tsunami – their search takes them to the dangerous Thai-Burmese waters, and then into the jungle, where they face unknown but horrifying dangers.
Emmanuekke Beart and Rufus Sewell play married couple Jeanne and Paul Bellmer; their relationship is in tatters as both deal with the loss of their son, Joshua, in the 2004 tsunami. What makes Joshua’s loss so devastating is that his body was never found, making it impossible for them (especially Jeanne) to process the tragedy and move on. When a recording surfaces of Burmese orphans living in an abandoned fishing village, Jeanne catches a glimpse of a child who bears a strong resemblance to Joshua. This chance sighting sets the couple off on a dangerous quest, one reminiscent of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the films Apocalypse Now and The African Queen. As the journey progresses, finding Joshua takes a back seat to basic survival as the entire trip becomes a metaphorical descent into madness.
It’s the realistic human drama that makes Vinyan so compelling. The fact that the tsunami of Southeast Asia is a real event makes the sorrow conveyed actual and palpable. While the idea of a European child getting swept from Thailand to Burma seems unlikely, who could possibly fault a mother for clinging to any shred of hope? And while Paul struggles to support his wife, he’s less certain that the child is the video is actually Joshua. Paul is also struggling with intense guilt; his emotions are controlled, but beneath the surface, he’s devastated by the fact that he was unable to save his son. His worst fear is that Jeanne actually blames him for Joshua’s disappearance—blames him and hates him for it.
While not a straight-forward Horror film like Calvarie, Vinyan could nonetheless find a comfortable spot in the “Creepy Kids” subgenre (like Children of the Corn, The Children, Plague Town, and many others). In fact, Vinyan has some of the scariest clans of feral children ever committed to film. It’s interesting to watch how children in the Vinyan become increasingly ominous as the film progresses. We pass a group of kids playing soccer who seems harmless, until they deliver an extremely icy stare-down. Later, a group of children on a Thai beach are seen abusing a corps. As the couple makes their way into dangerous Burmese villages, the kids become monstrous and animalistic, moving silently amongst the trees like phantoms. It’s like an entire society straight out of Lord of the Flies—only much more terrifying. The subtext suggests that children, when deprived of guidance from adults, are little more than miniature sociopaths.
The ending of Vinyan is utterly devastating and the final scene is absolutely shocking. Without revealing spoilers, the final scene is definitely open to interpretation. Some critics have decried the ending, finding it sexualized to the point of pornography. I disagree with this interpretation, seeing it more as statement on motherhood. However you chose to interpret the shocking final moments, it will certainly stay with you for a long time.
Vinyan is a serious and complicated film teeming with subtext. It’s long and at time difficult to endure, but this should come as no surprise to those familiar with du Welz and Calvarie. Those looking for a slice-‘em-dice-‘em Horror experience will certainly want to seek their thrills elsewhere. Adventurous aficionados, however, will love it.
3.5 out of 5 Skull Heads.
|Directed by||Fabrice du Welz|
|Music by||François-Eudes Chanfrault|
|Editing by||Colin Monie|