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Hal MacDermot [Celluloid 05.08.08] movie review drama

Year: 2007
Release date: Unknown
Director: Dimitri Karakatsanis
Writer: Dimitri Karakatsanis
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: cyberhal
Rating: 7.9 out of 10

I'm not sure if I understand everything about this film, but I really liked it. It's an artsy foreign movie, but in the best possible sense – beautiful, dark, hard to figure out, and full of interesting but deranged characters. Small Gods weighs in at 65 minutes and is the first feature film of Belgian writer/director Dimitri Karakatsanis. The film won him a special mention at the Flanders International Film Festival in 2007, and was an official selection at the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Elena (Steffi Peters) is recovering in hospital after a car crash when she's kidnapped by the mysterious David. He takes her on a road trip across the dark winter countryside of Belgium. For most of the trip she's in a semi-drugged state from her medicine. Along the way, they pick up Sara, a silent type who carries around a child's doll in a clear plastic bag. We meet up with various whacked-out characters, including an old boxer and a deranged prophet.

The director feeds us information slowly, drop by drop. After a while, we learn that Elena was responsible for her son's death in the car crash. Much later, we find out that her father physically abused her when she was younger. As the story climaxes, and the trio come face to face with Elena's father, we finally learn that tracking him was the purpose of the journey. David (Titus de Voogdt), has decided that the father must be made to pay for his sins. And man, does he pay.

The performances in this film are impressive. Steffi Peters as she struggles with memory loss to understand what's happened to her. The lawyer (Dick van Dijck) as he questions Elena to try and find out the truth in a world of confusion and crime. I loved Titus de Voogdt's portrayal of David: part Healer, part Saviour, part Psychopath.

The cinematography is right on the money. Dark landscapes reflect dark emotions. Most of the colors drained right out. Sometimes the bright sun shines through the clouds and blinds us. Many scenes take place at night, with campfires or gas lamps, the light emphasizing the blackness. What I really enjoyed was the whole blurry POV style that took me right into the drugged/confused mind of Elena. I thought the soundtrack fit perfectly as well, a woman singing a haunting acoustic ballad in a random foreign language; electronic distortion; some intense sound focus on small events, like drumming fingers, very David Lynch.

Often in this movie, I wasn't sure what was true and what were Elena's drugged out dreams. For example, the old Boxer who offers David "a wish" if David can beat him in a fist fight. Is this a David-flashback? Or is it Elena's mind playing tricks? Time, dreams and reality mix up to the point where it's hard to untangle them. But maybe that's the point, maybe that's exactly what Elena's life is all about. Small Gods was released in Belgium in January 2008 and it deserves a wider distribution. I totally recommend this film.

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