Belgium - Full Moon 53 - 02/08/01
Brussels International Film Festival
Bruxelles, mon Amour
Saturday January 27th: last day of the Brussels International Film Festival. "And the
nominees are..." It is no surprise that we could not find any Belgian movie in the European
Competition, not even in the European Short V section. However, some Belgian movies made it
into the festival cinemas. One of them was Bruxelles, mon Amour (rara, where did they
get the title?), a film by Kaat van Beels, Peter Vankerckhove and, as they say 'Belgians
finest' Mark Didden. Great expectations, but even greater disappointment afterwards.
Bruxelles, mon Amour is a recent Belgian fictitious short film (2000). It takes
about 50' and is divided into three parts; three different stories. It is about several people
living in the 'European District' in Brussels. Threatened by glass sky scrapers of the European
union and commission, ruining an entire district of the capital. These people live their own
lives, with their own stories, their own thoughts, their own antipathy to the European threat.
Three different stories about three different people, hardly linked to each other, with a
rather weak content.
FIRST STORY: They broke up some time ago, but they aren't used to being alone at night.
Cliché images of Brussels, the train, the buildings, the chaos, the noise, ... They decide to
spend the night together, "just sleeping and talking". In fact, that's all that happens, they
talk, and then they sleep. She tells him she has kept his pyjamas as a souvenir. In 'revenge'
he puts on her nightdress and takes it with him, 'as a souvenir'... She doesn't know, that's
the Pointe... For whom has seen Manneken Pis (directed by Frank van Passel, Belgium, 1995
- editor's note) a few years ago, you don't have to see Bruxelles, mon Amour, it's a
copy, we've seen the images, we've heard the dialogues, and we know the Pointe, so what's the
point. Nothing new, nothing surprising, nothing interesting anymore. Manneken Pis was
great, let's face it, don't copy it.
SECOND STORY: A young Irishman dies. He had no friends, he just ran away from home and
settled in Brussels. No one at the funeral ceremony, just this woman, who lived in the same
block. She used to talk to him, make hot chocolate for him and steal the letters his mum wrote.
She talks to the vicar for hours and hours without saying anything. Lots of words, no content.
I think this could have been a very interesting story. The theme's OK, the locations are OK,
the story is OK, but nothing happens. They just talk, no action, and that's what film is all
about right, action! You don't have to tell a story with no content, you have to create
THIRD STORY: A young Moroccan guy learns from his father back in Morocco that his mother
died. He tries to hide his feelings but that's the problem with bad actors: somehow they always
keep on smiling. His father wants to visit him in Brussels, but the guy (I believe Cheb was his
name) doesn't want him to find out that the post cards he used to send aren't really his home,
but just pictures of the atomium and that this so called 'great job' of his isn't half as great
as he always pretended it to be. In the pub down the street we recognize the vicar from the
'second story'. Cheb sees him and leaves, "too many foreigners" he says (now that's a Pointe!).
Anyway, his father comes to Brussels and finds him in the hotel he works at.
This last story is the best of all three of the stories, but those actors... dough... One of
them is a great actress at 'De Roovers'. I saw her once in a play called Maria Steward
where she was really great. I don't know what happened to her in this film, she's terrible. And
then the content... again, nothing happens.
In general I think the idea is pretty good. The 'European District' as main theme, as a
reaction against the fact that still, the European Union doesn't seem to realize that there are
actually people living in this so called 'Union'. Instead, they demolish the most beautiful
districts in Brussels in order to build their expensive glass offices with illegal subterranean
car parks. They even renamed the entire district, because the name "Leopoldswijk/Quatier
Lé opold" (referring to the third king of Belgium who financed the building of this district
about 60 years ago) wasn't referring to anything 'European'. This district is now called
"Luxemburgwijk/Quartier Luxembourg". This theme is the context, as Syd Field says in
Screenplay. But a film is more then just 'a good idea or a context, it needs a content,
like a cup of tea is not a cup of tea if it doesn't contain any tea. And that seems to be the
Bruxelles, mon Amour wasn't the only Belgian movie on the festival. I've also been
seeing Pony Palace, a very nice movie, WITH content, by Bie Boeykens. Only the title is
a pity because it sounds rather silly.
For the interested ones: the prices for the European Competition: the Golden Iris was for
I Cento Passi (Marco Tullio Giordana, Italy, 2000). I was rather disappointed because
England! (Achim von Borries, Germany, 2000, with Anna Geislerová!!!!) was my favourite.
But the fact that Ivan Shvedoff (plays the main character in England!) won the 'Silver
Iris' for best actor cheered me up again.
Copyright © 2001 Jan Ackenhausen