Calvaire (2004)

September 15th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Fabrice du Welz | Belgium, Thriller 88′

Calvaire kicks off Fabrice du Welz’s ‘Ardennes’ Trilogy, a series of tortured psychological thrillers with a religious ring to them (Alleluia, Adoration) set in the remote forested region of Belgium known as Wallonia. There are clear echoes of Philippe Haim’s Barracuda 1997 and Roman Polanski’s Cul de Sac (1966) to this potent possession piece that sees a stranger veering off the beaten track to find himself in trouble.

Although Belgian, Calvaire forms part of the New French Extremity Movement, a series of intensely sensorial and violently exploitative psychodramas that featured rape, mental torture and graphic sex. Notable protagonists of the sub-genre are Philippe Grandrieux, Catherine Breillat, Gaspar Noe, Lars von Trier, and Bruno Dumont. Here Du Welz and his co-writer from Alleluia craft another warped cult classic for the archives.

A travelling troubadour (Laurent Lucas) finds himself at the mercy of some bizarrre Bruegelesque characters when his van breaks down on a rainy night on the way home from a gig. After enduring an eerie encounter with a whimpering wayfarer called Boris (Jean-Luc Couchard) who appears to have lost his dog Bella, a cosy fireside welcome from inkeeper M. Bartel (Jackie Berroyer) seems like a reprieve, but soon turns into a nightmare when his perverse host, who warns him not to go near the village, has other ideas about making his guest feel at home, although this does rather outstay its welcome despite a modest running time. MT

CALVAIRE on digital platforms from 19 September 2023

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