Saturday, 18 September 2021 18:48



Belgium/France/UK, 2008, 97 minutes, Colour.
Emanuel Beart, Rufus Sewell.
Directed by Fabrice du Welz.

The 2004 tsunami had devastating effects on the populations of the Asian countries where it struck, especially Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka... It also affected a number of people from Europe who were holidaying in those regions. This is a drama that takes the aftermath of the tsunami as its starting point.

The focus is on a couple, he is English (Rufus Sewell) and she is French (Emmanuelle Beart). They have lost their young son in the disaster and have stayed on in Phuket, aligned with some relief activity but the mother, still hoping against all hope, that their son is alive. While watching a DVD filmed in Myanmar by the charity, she believes she sees an image of her son. Nothing will stop her in her quest to find him, despite the more rational approach of her husband and the costs that prospective guides, reputable or not, demand (another concern of the husband).

Their journey leads them to sail north to Myanmar and then enter the jungle. For many stories, an intense journey into the jungle becomes a voyage into what Conrad called 'the heart of darkness', with memories of the river voyage in Apocalypse Now - geographically not far from this journey and just as deadly. In fact Vinyan evokes many images from Apocalypse Now as well as its themes.

The couple and their mercenary guide (who lost his family in the tsunami) become lost in the jungle. Alternate children are offered to them. Gradually, there is the loss of a hold on reality, eerie settings in ruins, ghostly children and final grim confrontations.

Writer-director, Fabrice du Welz, is not averse to showing suffering human beings and not shy of scenes of torture. His previous film, Calvaire, had a hapless hero, lost in the Belgian countryside, hounded cruelly to his fate.

That said, the film is quite powerful in its emotions, sinister in its quest and descending into what we remember from Conrad and Coppola, into 'the horror'.

1.The impact of the drama, the horror? Going into the heart of darkness?

2.The reality of the 2004 tsunami, its effects in Asia, on European travellers, physical, psychological?

3.The visuals of the film, their intensity, the darkness, the jungle, the score?

4.Jeanne emerging from the sea, Paul watching her, responding? Their marriage, the disappearance of their son? Their staying on in Phuket? Grief?

5.The charity organisation, the information, the social concern, the DVD and Jeanne’s response? The reality of Myanmar, the tsunami, the trading in children? The money? The dangers?

6.Kim, her information, her travelling in Myanmar, the connection with Thaksin Gao?

7.Jeanne and Paul, their talking the touches of madness, Jeanne rushing through the city, after dark, the details of the streets, the people, the markets, the activities, the clubs? Her searching for Thaksin Gao? Finding a contact?

8.The issue of money, greed, agents and guides, the possibilities? The boats? Paul and his continued concern about costs?

9.Jeanne and her intensity, cost not being important, searching for her son no matter what? The discussions with Paul, his rational approach? Her emotional approach?

10.Preparing for the travel, the guide, their experience with him, mistrust, paying extra for the boat and the passport, on the sea, met by Thaksin Gao, his shooting the guide?

11.The boat, at sea, the beauty of the ocean, the rock and landscapes? Thailand, Myanmar? The phone connections? The beginning of isolation?

12.On land, mysterious, having to trust Thaksin Gao? Jeanne and Paul, the relationship, their love, sexuality, yet the tension, issues of trust? The elements of paranoia? Feeling alien? Being offered alternate children for their own?

13.The travel, their being lost, the jungle, the apparitions, dreams, imagination?

14.Jeanne giving the money to Thaksin Gao, his keeping it, his being lost? The confrontation with Paul? His leaving, his contacts, his being captured, in the pit, their being unable to get him out, his death?

15.The temple ruins, the strange old people, their helplessness, the children, the visuals of the children, the mud, the malevolence, spirits or real?

16.Jeanne and Paul, being bewildered, the fears, Jeanne wanting her son, Paul and his giving up?

17.Jeanne and her staying, thinking she saw her son, seeing him in dreams and apparitions? Staying in the jungle? Paul refusing to leave? His being taken? The evil overwhelming him, the brutality of his death, picking his body to pieces, the intestines? Jeanne looking on defiantly with the children?

18.The grim and pessimistic tone of the film? The heart of darkness, apocalypse, the horror?