Brothers Seth (Martin Nissen) 15 and Zak (Zacharie Chasseriaud) 13 3/4, are spending the summer in their deceased grandfather's house, waiting in vain for their mother, who is otherwise busy. They are running low on cash. To make some money they decide to rent out the house to a local drug dealer, Beouf (Didier Toupy) and his henchman, Angel (Karim Leklou), whose younger brother Dany (Paul Bartel) joins the Seth brothers on their adventure.
Review by Louise Keller:
The tranquil beauty of rural Belgium and three outstanding juvenile performances are the highlights of this moody and haunting film that offers an unsettling glimpse of the pain of adolescence. This is painter / actor Bouli Lanners' third outing as writer / director and the performances he has extracted from his young cast are extraordinary. While there may be gaps in the scripting and characterisations which raise unanswered questions, the film's sweet rewards lie in the meandering journey taken by the three teenage boys as they slowly determine their own fate.
The film's opening scenes reveal a tranquil beauty that counters the tumultuous events that are about to face the film's three protagonists. The circumstances that see 15 year old Seth (Martin Nissen) and his nearly 14 - "13 3/4" - year old brother Zak (Zacharie Chasseriaud) staying alone at their deceased grandfather's house are not clear, but their mother seems to have abandoned them.
The relationship they strike up with 15 year old Dany (Paul Bartel) is forged by their instinctive understanding of their individual situations and the difficulties surrounding them. Just one look at Dany's maniacal and violent older brother Angel (Karim Leklou) is enough to tell us that Dany is looking for an escape.
Seth and Zak's changing circumstances become established as they agree to rent out their grandfather's house to the untrustworthy, cocaine snorting, marijuana growing Boeuf (Didier Toupy), whose missing teeth and unfortunate mannerisms are somewhat disconcerting. As is the blank-eyed stare proffered by his hare-lipped companion Martha (Gwen Berrou) who has a 'thing' for Angel. Talked into selling everything in the house to a Russian wheeler-dealer for next to nothing, Seth and Zak are homeless with effectively nothing. Dany is happy to tag along.
The boys go for a joy-ride in Papi's yellow car, hiding in the tall corn fields, when they are spied by local police. They smoke a joint, take turns shooting at ducks and yell expletives by the campfire at night on the banks of a sublimely beautiful river covered in lichen. They sneak into a neighbour's empty house, guzzle the liquor and bleach their hair wearing green face masks in the bathroom. Sprung, they take flight and find refuge with a kindly neighbour (Marthe Keller) with a Down Syndrome daughter.
The scene such as the one when they smother hot chilli sauce on stolen frozen pizza and joke about its positive impact on masturbation is a prime example of puerile, juvenile behaviour apposite to their age. Meanwhile, the laid-back guitar of The Bony King of Nowhere follows them everywhere.
All three lead performances are exceptional with special mention to Zacharie Chasseriaud, whose expressive heart-shaped face and responses make for a special connection. Our journey follows that of the boys who gradually take charge of their own destiny, making them giants in their own story.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Filmmaker Bouli Lanners might have been tempted to use Morgana King's heartbreakingly simple and soulful version of the old Negro spiritual, 'Sometimes I feel ... like a motherless child' but he didn't; he opted for the bony music of The Bony King of Nowhere, whose plaintive guitar plucking adds poignancy to the images. Brothers Seth (Martin Nissen) 15 and Zak (Zacharie Chasseriaud) 13 3/4, are at a loss, without a parent in sight. Mother rings once or twice on Zak's little mobile to offer another excuse for not coming to get them. No sign of dad. Grandpa is dead.
Out in the gorgeous, verdant Wallone countryside of central Belgium, where the river runs right through the forest and where cornfields hide the boys when required, the boys must fend for themselves against both nature and man. Adults, that is. They rent grandpa's house to crooks with Russian connections and are swindled. But not all the adults they meet are reprobates; a kindly woman (lovely Marthe Keller) with a down syndrome daughter takes them in for a while, while nature is not so kind to them.
But they are kids and they make the best of it. They have fun despite their plight, whether plundering the bathroom of a holiday home and making a party of the make up and hair bleach, or pigging out on pizza with hot sauce (for better sexual satisfaction, boasts Zak).
For all the boisterous fun, Zak is forever missing his mum, and Zacharie Chasseriaud delivers a superb performance with every emotion subtly but clearly visible on his face.
The journey of these three giants to the realisation that they are after all, alone in this world and must face it together is what the film is about. It's contemplative and slow (for the most part) with a couple of short bursts of violence when Angel menaces his brother and the friends.
All the cast make an impression - for good or baddie - and Gwen Berrou is especially haunting as the floozy amongst the crims.
The Giants is a festival film (it featured in Directors Fortnight at Cannes, for example, where it won a couple of awards), by which I mean it is for discerning movie palates, prepared to go with the flow of the leisurely pace that contrasts with the intensity. It's not mainstream cinema - although our survivors still 'sail off into the sunset'.
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GIANTS, THE (PG)
CAST: Martin Nissen, Zacharie Chasseriaud, Paul Bartel, Marthe Keller, Karim Leklou, Didier Toupy
PRODUCER: Jacques-Henri Bronckart, Jani Thiltges
DIRECTOR: Bouli Lanners
SCRIPT: Bouli Lanners, Elise Ancion
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jean-Paul de Zaetijd
EDITOR: Ewin Ryckaert
MUSIC: The Bony King of Nowhere
RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 1, 2012 (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane)