Claude Berri – Germinal (1993)

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Germinal

Release Date: 1993

Ebert Rating: ***

By Roger Ebert Mar 18, 1994

I I n 1884 the French author Emile Zola traveled to a poor rural district of France to observe the living and working conditions of striking coal miners. The novel he wrote about that experience, Germinal, was instrumental in winning justice for the workers, who existed in a condition little better than slavery.

Claude Berri’s ambitious new epic “Germinal” recreates Zola’s story. Zola, who began as a writer at a time when most novels were inspired by imagination and romance, helped pioneer a style of detailed realism, piling fact upon fact so that his books seemed drawn from real life. Berri’s film has been made in the same spirit, and the elaborate sets showing the villages and mines are so convincing the movie almost seems shot on 19th century locations. Continue reading

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Peter Brosens & Jessica Woodworth – La cinquième saison AKA The Fifth Season (2012)

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Winter, spring, summer, autumn…and then? La cinquiememe saison (The Fifth Season) is an apocalyptic tale which does not need to make use of extraterrestrial aliens or natural catastrophes to impress the viewer. Humans and nature have a very fragile connection – what if nature suddenly decided to cut this connection?

Set in a little rural village in the Ardennes, the inhabitants are preparing for the local feast to celebrate the end of the winter. But something goes wrong: the fire that was supposed to light up the bonfire refuses to burn, a bad omen for the whole community. We do not see the end coming at first but season after season we gradually witness a slow but implacable process of decay: the crops do not grow, the animals become sterile, people fall ill and the trees collapse. The two young protagonists Alice and Thomas, the outsider Pol and his paraplegic son, and all the others can do nothing other than be spectators to this silent disaster. Continue reading

Charles Tutelier – La Belgique martyre AKA The martyrdom of Belgium (1919)

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Plot
A young Flemish peasant experiences the brutal side of war after his father has left to fight at the battle front of the Yser, his mother has been executed by German soldiers and his grandfather has been sent to an internment camp. He decides to take up arms and joins the Belgian army to avenge his mother’s death… (EFG) Continue reading

Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne – Deux jours, une nuit AKA Two Days, One Night (2014)

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Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.
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Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne – La promesse AKA The Promise (1996)

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SYNOPSIS
‘La Promesse’ is the story of 15 year old Igor, who helps his small time crook father run a scam illegally employing immigrants on building sites. But when one of the workers is fatally injured, Igor promises to look after the man’s wife and child – a promise that changes Igor’s life forever. (ArtificialEye)

“The Promise” is the extraordinary story of a boy’s ascendance to grace. Under the conscienceless guidance of his father (Olivier Gourmet as Roger), fifteen-year old Igor appears destined to a life of petty crime. All changes, however, when Igor delivers an uncompromising promise to Hamidou – an immigrant who while working illegally for Roger accidentally falls to his death. As Roger scrambles to cover-up the accident, Igor suddenly finds himself torn between his loyalty to Roger and the agreement he made with Hamidou. Suspicious of Roger’s motivation and intimately drawn to the heart of his promise, Igor must choose between his love for his father and the demands of his awakening conscience. (New Yorker Video) Continue reading

Marion Hänsel – Dust (1985)

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J. M. COETZEE’S ”In the Heart of the Country” (published here as ”From the Heart of the Country”) is written as a diary, in the fierce, scathing, half-mad voice of a woman living in near-isolation on a South African sheep farm. With its startling clarity and its paradoxically hallucinatory style, this brief 1977 novel would seem to be well out of any film maker’s reach.

But Marion Hansel, a Belgian director, has attempted to adapt it anyhow, and has done a job that is creditable if in some ways incomplete. The remote, barren setting for the story, on the veldt in Cape Province, has been hauntingly evoked (though the film was shot in Spain). And the characters, played by well-chosen, visually striking actors, are given life and stature.

Miss Hansel’s ”Dust,” which opens today at Film Forum 2, has a handsome look that manages, in the manner of the great American westerns, to be both classical and wild. If it lacks the surprise and complexity of Mr. Coetzee’s vision, and if its stillness sometimes borders on the becalmed, it nonetheless has a stark, streamlined manner and an underlying urgency. Continue reading

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