Thursday, December 31, 2009


Thirteen year old Claire lives in an isolated house outside of Luxemborg with her wealthy adopted parents. Theirs is a beautiful, comfortable house with an office for her work at home psychiatrist father, a lavish pool and a quaint garden. The only major fault is the close proximity to the local airport, flights from which disturb her pianist mother’s practice as well as her own. 

The closeness to the airport, and the surrounding woods, makes the area a perfect locale for a group of drug runners to collect their merchandise, which was smuggled into the country in the hands, or rather bowels, of a young boy. The boy, who speaks no English is collected at a rural bus stop by a trio of men who take him into the woods. One of them unceremoniously hands the boy a roll of toliet paper while another silently begins to dig a hole nearby, his intent rather clear. As the boy struggles to expel his load, voices interrupt the silent and surreal scene. The muscle man of the group is forced, under the cover of a passing jet, to shoot the boy after having retrieved only half of the goods. 

These two moments collide when Claire, in the midst of attempting her piano practice, is surprised by the start of her first period. Uncertain of what is happening, she ends up crying in the garden sled. The noise of something dripping leads her up the ladder to the loft (which collapses under her weight) and the discovery of the boy who is amazingly alive after taking a bullet to the leg and one to the gut. 

Claire foolishly doesn’t tell her parents about the boy but tends to him herself. Including cleaning his wounds and even cleaning up after he soils himself (recovering several of the drug bags in the process). We later find out that Claire was abandoned as a child, perhaps leading to some distrust and weariness with adults, even ones as kind as her adopted parents. Claire discovers that the boy is being hunted by the men,  who have discovered that he was not killed after all. The two run off together, but unfortunately are not successful in escaping in the end. They are grabbed by the gunman who tries to rape Claire before she is able to kill  him. The boy however dies from his untreated wounds. 

American audiences are likely to be put off and even disturbed by this film which features several rather crude moments, including Claire cutting the pants off the boy to discover his filth filled underpants, demonstrating the purpose of a bucket she has brought by dropping trou and peeing into it, the children’s drug use, implied undressings without shame and so forth. There are also other strangely crude and surreal moments such as Claire licking the boy’s face like a mother cat might to a kitten, and their fumbling sex scene at the end (interesting the only time that Claire is seen fully topless). Such seemingly crude moments add to the surrealness of the film, which is made more so by long stretches with no spoken dialogue (owing to the pointlessness of speaking to someone that doesn’t understand the language). 

And while there were many moments that seemed to lack logic and were crude and perhaps inappropriate, the movie is actually very beautifully filmed  and has a certain inexplicable beauty in it. It is disjointed and odd, perhaps rather like one might feel when drugged. Or even how a hormonal 13 year old might view a world she never feels totally a part of. Even photos of Claire as a younger child are disjointed, extreme closeups of only part of her face. And in the one photo with her parents there is a noticeable space between the child and the loving couple, as if she doesn’t really fit in the scene. And while the action leads Claire and the boy, in the hands of the gunman, back to the same wooded spot where the boy was first shot and later dies, Claire does achieve a kind of revenge first by killing the gunman and then by smashing his van into the car of the arriving partners who had come to pick up another boy (who is warned out of the way by Claire). We fade to black before we know if Claire was killed in the crash (which is followed by a logging truck smashing the mens’ car), left only with one final surreal glimpse of her seemingly satisfied expression. 

And most impressive were the performances of the young actors. In contrast to the American practice of casting older teens who merely appear the right age, these actors were only a few months different in age to their characters. And they were forced to carry the movie alone as they were often the only actors in a scene. Adding to the weight of things, they had to act in near silence due to the language barrier. And yet for all the challenges, they were the most honest part of the film. There was little embarrassment or shame, particularly from Claire, who did what needed to be done no matter how messy or strange. It is that honesty that makes the film work even in its most surreal. And makes this movie worth a viewing.

Quick Facts

Released October 2002
Official Site
Director: Paula van der Oest
Writer: Carel Donck
Stars: Hunter Bussemaker, Laurien Van den Broeck
Notes:  Filmed in the Netherlands by a Dutch cast and crew

Get it:

iTunes, DVD, Blu-ray, On Demand

iTunes, CD, MP3

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