Left Bank (2008)
★ / ★★★★
Marie (Eline Kuppens) was a runner who qualified to compete on an international level. But just after she met Bobby (Matthias Schoenaerts), her health began to decline. Doctors claimed it was a simple case of exhaustion and they recommended that she postpone her training until her body recovered. In order to recuperate, she decided to move in with Bobby in Left Bank, a place with a strange history involving missing folks and killings. Directed by Pieter Van Hees, “Linkeroever” took its time to build its atmosphere but its horror elements, mainly its payoffs, left to be desired, an excellent example of rising action overwhelming the material. Instead of delivering horror with potency and urgency, especially toward the end, it relied on quick cuts and darkness to hide specific images that the audiences deserved to see. I emphasize “deserved” because we were asked to sit through extended, sometimes unnecessary, expositions. Not delivering what we deserved to experience on a gut level was like sitting through a joke without any punchline. As a result, the climax was limp so the big picture was incredibly underwhelming. Still, the film wasn’t without good moments. Marie, while out running despite her doctor’s orders, fell and scraped her knee. Over time, the wound became swollen and black. Thick hair started to grow on it as if a creature laid dormant inside. When we were given a chance to be as close to something quite disturbing, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. But the picture never gained proper footing when it came to the consistency of its delivery. While the picture provided some background information about the apartment complex, such as human sacrifice committed years prior by the former residents, it felt too superficial. What I found more interesting was the strand about the girl who suddenly disappeared. Coincidentally, she lived in the very same apartment as Bobby and Marie. Lastly, Marie was not exactly the type of protagonist who we could instinctually root for. She was moody, treated her mother (Marilou Mermans) with disrespect even though she tried her best to be a single parent, and she didn’t have the sense to ask questions when things began to feel really strange. I was frustrated with her lack of common sense. If I had a cut where it obviously looked infected and I started to vomit blood, I would let my doctor know. If my doctor acted like nothing was wrong, I would seek for a second opinion. Her biggest concern was perhaps she was pregnant. I thought she needed to sort out her priorities. I’m not trying to be glib. If I’m asked to sympathize for characters, it would only make sense to allow them to have a certain level of practicality. Marie was supposed to be an athlete but she didn’t seem to know how to look out for herself. How could I be invested in her plight if she was so nonchalant to the strange events happening around her?