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Running on empty

Piazza Grande - Adoration

Running on empty

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© Kris Dewitte

In 2004, a man got lost in the middle of nowhere, only to endure atrocious suffering at the hands of oddball townspeople. In 2014, a man and a woman fell madly in love, literally, and went on a killing spree based on true events. In 2019, fifteen years after his first feature, Belgian filmmaker Fabrice du Welz closes the book on his so-called “Ardennes Trilogy”, which began with Calvaire and continued with Alléluia. However, while sharing the same suggestive landscapes, the presence of Laurent Lucas (playing a very reduced role this time) and an unconventional love story, Adoration is quite far removed from its predecessors’ extreme and openly horrific tone. This time the horror is predominantly suggested, internal, almost entirely inside the head of young Gloria (Fantine Harduin, who appeared in Michael Haneke’s Happy End), with whom Paul (Thomas Gioria, making his second film appearance after Xavier Legrand’s Custody) falls in love after meeting her at the mental institution where his mother works. The two run away, fully aware of the implications (Paul knows that Gloria is technically insane), and their physical and spiritual journey is the dramatic core of the director’s most mature and accomplished work, which eschews the extreme brutality of his previous films – Calvaire was both a title and a statement of intent regarding the audience’s reaction - in favor of a tender, subtly melancholy meditation on young love and its sometimes tragic consequences. «You’ll never leave me, right? Then I’ll love you forever», Gloria says, repeatedly, and another sweet, young relationship with dangerous nuances springs to mind, in the acclaimed Swedish genre film Let the Right One In. Except there are no vampires here, only two people who are perhaps too human, fragile yet determined, set against the eerily beautiful backdrop of the Belgian woods. Fabrice du Welz builds an adventurous and melancholy mood around them, entrusting Benoît Poelvoorde with the memorable role of the unlikely, surprisingly moving voice of reason.

Max Borg

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