Belgians have a hard time recognizing their own talent. That's a fact of life. We're simply not good at promoting our own stuff, even when it's obviously quite awesome. We don't expect to make things that matter in the global view of things and somehow we can't seem to grasp the idea that someone outside our tiny borders would be interested in our products. Want proof? Check out Nuit Noire.
Smolders' film played some festivals and got some good reviews (check out the ones on Twitch), but locally this film did nothing. Until a couple of weeks ago I never even heard of the film. Which is strange considering it doesn't look like your everyday low-budget experimental flick. While watching I had to keep reminding myself that this was a film coming from within the confines of our little country.
Nuit Noire exists very much in a reality of its own, but some parallels to other directors and films can be made. The film is best summarized as a mixture of early Lynch (think Eraserhead and The Grandmother) and Cronenberg's Naked Lunch, while still retaining its very own unique style. And Smolders makes sure to do proud to his influences, as Nuit Noire manages to surpass his influences on several points.
The story is hardly coherent and mostly symbolic. As an audience, you simply have to go with the flow of the film, hanging on to whatever strands it throws your way. Multiple viewings are advised, but it probably works best with an audio commentary to get all there is to get. Oscar is a rather peculiar guy working in a museum. He loves insects and spends his whole day among them. In his spare time, he wrestles with his past and tries to paste back his memories of his lost sister. Those are the basics.
Visually Nuit Noire is almost impeccable, with superbly designed sets, smart color design and some very strange and inventive imagery. There is much symbolism hidden in the imagery, some very direct (plenty of bug shots), some a little harder to spot. Sadly there is also a downside. The dreams of Oscar are depicted in a very stage-like manner, almost resembling a theater play registration. A visually accomplished one, but the feeling of stage performances is carried over to the other scenes, creating a definite awareness that everything is played on set. This is a bit of a shame, as the film isn't trying to break through the 4th wall. A little disappointing.
The soundtrack on the other hand doesn't disappoint at all, with dark drones and eerie waves throughout the whole film. It brings the film tons of atmosphere which helps to build a rather unsettling feeling. Acting is stark and emotionally distant, but without a doubt intended to create a darker and edgier reality.
Around halfway through you'll be wondering what this film is all about, though the main themes come through rather well. Oscar's struggle with his lost past is at the core of the film, but those trying to find a coherent narrative will have a hard time following the film. Luckily the atmosphere remains consistently strong and some of the imagery is simply stunning to behold.
It's a real shame that the dream sequences weren't handled in a different way. It would've been the final touch to an already strong film. Now they distract a little and even hurt some of the other scenes, which could never have been Smolders' intention. It's definitely not a film for everyone as it's strange as hell and is rather impenetrable on the first viewing, but it's a very accomplished piece of cinema that should find its way to an enthusiastic fanbase. Check it out if you have the chance.