The last couple of years, many talented Belgian directors have risen from the ashes of a braindead film industry. People like Karakatsanis, Mortier and Balthazar reshaped the image of Belgian cinema, but none of them were able to confirm their talent with a second film. Yet. Enter Fabrice du Welz, front runner of the new wave of directors, who does more than just confirm his status with Vinyan.
Director du Welz is reaching high. Calvaire granted him a little international praise, which he took and exploited to make his second a larger, international enterprise. He rounded up a team with superb credentials, found a couple of willing and respected actors and drove them all to Thailand to set his new film against the background of the tsunami. So long backwood villages in the Ardennes, hello world.
Expectations for du Welz' new film have been all over the place. Some buzz talked about a new horror/gore fest, some people were put of by the simple dramatic back story. Not too surprising, considering Vinyan is a film about a couple in Thailand, looking for their son lost in the tsunami. It could have easily turned into a 90 minute dramatic borefest, du Welz makes sure this idea is shattered from the very first seconds.
As you're watching the opening credits, with its bold and overly huge text, you know Vinyan will not be your average film. Vinyan immediately links itself to Gaspar Noé's Irréversble, which comes as no surprise with Debie handling the visuals. Certainly one of the most talented cinematographers today, Debie gives his all. From the magnificent opening shot underwater, until the iconic finale, the film is always stunning, capturing a hell hidden away under the idyllic facade of Thailand.
Debie's work is intense, filming a lot from the hand, but with plenty of strong and wonderfully set images in between. As our couple gets more and more estranged from each other and their environment, the film gets more and more intense, working its way up through several climaxes. It starts off pretty timid, with only a few visual shocks in the first half of the film (the bar scene in particular, reminiscent again of Debie's Club Rectum scene), but as the halfway point is passed, there are really no more comfortable moments left for the audience.
Matching Debie's genius is the music of composer Chanfrault. His work in Haute Tension and A l'Intérieur was already an indication of his talents, with Vinyan he goes all the way. Many scenes are accompanied by rising guitar drones climaxing into deafening pools of white noise. It add heaps to the already tense atmosphere of the film, though its less than accessible nature might alienate some of the more timed moviegoers. Still, all praise for du Welz for making such bold and daring choices.
As the couple runs off on a wild hunch to find their son, they begin their slow decent to hell. Probably the only element that really links this film to du Welz' earlier work. Both Sewell and Béart turn in great performances, bringing pain, humanity and insanity to their quest for relief. They might not be the most respected actors in their field, but they prove themselves very worthy.
The climax of the film is grand, leaving you with a few images that will be burned into your mind for a good while to come. Ultimately Vinyan is a bleak film about a couple destroyed by hope, but underneath that basic layer are many other interpretations linked to the meaning of the word vinyan (which is something like a meandering, vengeful ghost). How much you care about this is entirely up to you, it's du Welz' overwhelming direction that gives birth to the experience of the film, working even at the most basic level.
Vinyan might have some problems finding its audience. People expecting a second Calvaire will be disappointed, people expecting a solid drama will be disappointed, people expecting a character study will be disappointed. But whatever your expectations, Vinyan will stay with you. It's an experience not easily forgotten, tailored to perfection by du Welz and his team. It's brooding, intense and filled with individuality.