After finishing his gig at a retirement home, traveling singer Marc Stevens heads back on the road. It’s just before Christmas, the weather is terrible and his van brakes down in the middle of nowhere. Luckily there’s a remote village nearby and the local innkeeper offers him shelter. His wife has supposedly gone missing and now the village is populated entirely by men.
Sharing the gritty aesthetics and true grit of its ‘70s predecessors, from Deliverance to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, du Welz’s feature debut is a brutal, but astute, unique and distinctly belgique take on survivalist urbanoia. A “final boy” stranded in the Belgian backwoods. A dark and twisted parable of need and desire.
“Even in the Not Your Average Plot Department, Calvaire is a standout as a genre-bending European artsploitation riff on the 1970’s American survivalist horror film. /…/ The cast and crew of Calvaire (a.k.a. The Ordeal) reads like a veritable rogue’s gallery of infamous perpetrators of dark, French cinema. Beautifully shot on gloriously grainy super 16mm by Benoît Debie (cinematographer for Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible), produced by Vincent Tavier (Man Bites Dog screenwriter), with a cameo by legendary porn queen Brigitte Lahaie and starring Haute Tension’s Philippe Nahon, (the man whose eyes have the power to mercilessly suck you into a vortex of unrelenting pain), Calvaire proves that the French (with the help of the Belgians) earned their place at the forefront of the horror genre.”
– Stuart F. Andrews, Rue Morgue’s 100 Alternative Horror Films
“/…/ there is more than just gore here. While stylistically dominated by harsh realism – the beginning of the film could be plucked from the Dardenne Brothers’ oeuvre – the colours, camerawork and pace reference most of the modern horror canon, from Psycho (1960) through Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) to The Blair Witch Project (1999). Veteran scream queen Brigitte Lahaie makes a cameo, and there is even a reference to Snow White in the form of seven eerie dwarves in red jumpsuits. As the story unfolds, the style gradually changes: realism makes way for dark, expressionist lighting (sometimes even complete darkness) and cinematographer Benoît Debie (who also shot Gaspar Noé’s brilliant, disturbing Irréversible ) increasingly alternates hand-held shots with smooth, elaborate tracking shots. The Ordeal is completely void of music save three diegetic punctures, the third of which is a wild piano sarabande in the local bar with rural zombies performing a tribal dance. If you consider this comedic, think again: Du Welz makes it as uncanny as the ‘one of us’ mantra in Freaks (1932), a battle cry more than a celebration.”
– Ernest Mathijs, 100 European Horror Films
“I want to make feature films that are aggressive and poetic. It’s important that they take shape as I want them, as I imagine them. /…/ I had a deep desire to make a ‘survival’ horror film, a film where one has some fun with the landscapes, the crazy settings, the characters and their flaws. /…/ Calvaire, like Buñuel’s films, for example, falls undeniably in between fiction and reality. The fantastic genre is a good departure point to tell stories. This film is very close to a dream, a metaphor. When they are well done, genre films seem to me the best productions in the world. I have in mind such films as The Exorcist, Evil Dead, The Shining. There is nothing more brilliant in cinema, but, at the same time, I don’t think I want to make films like Calvaire all my life. I like genres, but also I like to transcend them.”
– Fabrice du Welz
19. 4. / 22:30 / SLOVENIAN CINEMATHEQUE
Belgium/France/Luxemburg, 2004, 35mm, 2.35, colour, 88′, English subtitles
directed by Fabrice du Welz
written by Fabrice du Welz, Romain Protat
cinematography Benoît Debie
editing Sabine Hubeaux
music Vincent Cahay
cast Laurent Lucas, Jackie Berroyer, Philippe Nahon
produced by Michael Gentile, Eddy Géradon-Luyckx, Vincent Tavier
Introduction and Q&A: Fabrice du Welz!
Double Bill »Fabrice du Welz«: 7 €
See both films Vinyan + Calvaire
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