Thursday, August 22, 2013

Third NZIFF Session - The Broken Circle Breakdown

My third session (as the film slots are called) at the NZ Int'l Film Fest was The Broken Circle Breakdown. This movie is about the relationship of a banjo player, Didier, in a band called 'The Broken Circle Breakdown' and eventual lead singer, Elise. I chose this film because BANJOS! Banjos in BELGIUM! And that's probably the only flipish thing I'll say because this film is pretty heavy.

I went to see this title despite what looked like heavy relationship melodrama because I love bluegrass music. I didn't realize there was much of a bluegrass community in Belgium (if I'd only known the few times I was there I would have looked out for some concerts) and it piqued my curiosity. Despite my reservations, this was probably the movie I've enjoyed the most in the theatre since Black Swan. The script was quite excellent and never fell into melodrama. There were a few scenes that I thought a little heavy-handed but, ultimately, that did not decrease my enjoyment or my admiration for the craft on display in this movie.

The screenplay is based on the play co-written by Johan Heldenburgh, who plays Didier in the film (he wasn't one of the screenplay writers). He and Veerle Baetens (Elise) were absolutely fucking fantastic! I was really impressed with their individual acting skills and with their chemistry (which no amount of training can supply). Baetens is luminescent with remarkable range. It's been a long time since I've taken so much pleasure in a performance.

In addition to the bluegrass performances scattered throughout the film, it is also set apart from standard relationship dramas in that the narrative skips in time. The movie covers about 8 years of actual time but slips back and forth as it covers the highs and lows of Didier and Elise's partnership. Narrative jumps can be anything from confusing to contrived but the style is executed superbly in this film. At no time are the jumps hard to follow and they added an intimacy to the film that would otherwise have been lost. I found that it nicely mimicked how a relationship works between two people. Never do you meet someone and start with "i was born." The way we get to know new partners/friends nicely parallels how viewers learn of the relationship between Didier and Elise.

And the bluegrass performances? Awesome! I'll be getting the soundtrack.

So, not my usual kind of film but highly recommended nonetheless. I did a double feature the day I saw this to also catch the Saudi film Wadjda. Another that is not my usual kind of movie, it ended up being just as must-see as TBCB. I'll talk about that one in another post.


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