We: Uncut Director's Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Artsploitation
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (21st March 2020).
The Film

How are we to feel when the once shockable is now considered passť? Is it a reflection upon our society, our times, the current state of cinema, or is that we, as viewers, have grown jaded and nonplussed at what we see on the screen? This is what I was mentally debating as I watched this film; so is it just me that is yawning at the been there, done that feeling of the film or is there something much stronger buried in the subtext of Rene Ellerís debut film. Sure, Larry Clarkís scathing film "Kids" (1995) was fairly strong stuff when it first premiered, but since then we have seen plenty of nihilism and teenage sex, so what makes this any better than the whole sordid lot of earlier films? Aside from the gratuitous hardcore sex scenes and the typical teens run amuck hijinks, does Eller really have more to say that the typical ho hum response from the critics?

Based on a novel written by Elvis Peeters (actually a pseudonym for the duo consisting of Jos Verlooy and his wife Nicole van Bael) this film is set in a small village in a Belgian-Dutch border area, the plot concerns eight teenagers, four boys and four girls, that allow themselves to basically stoop to absolutely base behavior. Think of it as being a Dutch version of the film "Lord of the Flies" (1963) except instead of young British schoolboys marooned on an island, we have eight hormonally overcharged teens. The cast for the most part is extremely good, but what I found to be troubling was that no one character came through as a distinct personality, instead all eight teens sort of morph into one entity. And of course, there is the coda, that this film is based on real events, which, of course, is a true exploitation move to ensure credibility. As an audience, are we to sit there enraptured by the amoral behavior that starts out as pushing the boundaries, only to later degrade into criminal acts, prostitution, blackmail and accidental death? Letís examine the film a little closer, shall we?

Things start out innocently enough with the group of teenagers congregating on bikes; it is summer, a time for rebellion and celebration, largely because the group has graduated from high school and now they are suspended, like insects in amber, between the future and the past. The director has selected four narrators, each one identified by various neon signs. We hear the speaker and they are speaking to an authority figure, in one case a psychiatrist, in others to an officer of the court. We hear the narratorís voice, but often there is a large gap between what they recall and what we are shown. Is this the directorís way of making a smug commentary on the truthfulness of the youths or is it merely a reflection on how society views the eyewitnesses to a crime? I cannot say for certain that it is either one of these reasons.

Letís get back to the basic plot of the film: someone in the group will be dead by the end of the film. We arenít told outright which character it will be; the death scene is saved for the conclusion of the film. At first, it is confusing as to who is who amongst the teens; they basically are all young and attractive and often naked, early on we hear Simon (Tijmen Govaerts) who is Femkeís (Salomť van Grunsven) boyfriend voices his doubts regarding the groupís sexual antics. The film, early on, takes a hard-left turn, and is suddenly thrust into hardcore sexual acts; the teens take turns working the camera and the performers wear various disguises to hide their true identities. We are told that this is one of the many schemes to make some easy money by hosting a website. This seems like a Lars von Trier shock treatment swerve, and is frankly off putting and not arousing, but who knows what the directorís true intentions were? These teens are truly liberated and seemingly do not possess any feelings of guilt or shame.

Thomas (Aimť Claeys) is more of a troubled youth and it is shown that he has experienced conflicts with his parents; this subjective point of view of the preceding events harkens back to a technique used by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa in his film "Rashomon" (1950), and essentially we are shown four different viewpoints of the same scene. Ultimately it is up to the audience to decide what is reality and who are the guilty parties. Liesl (Pauline Casteleyn) says that she is doing this because she wants to be an artist and shock apathetic viewers out of their slumber. Liesl proclaims that she wants to have a series of abortions so that she can then place the dead fetuses in a jar (shades of the ďpickled punkĒ from the sideshows of old); is this how todayís generation gauges their reactionary behavior? And what about the parents? They, after all, have raised these sociopaths in a world that they have helped create, so what role do they play in assigning the guilt to the parties involved? Usually the adults in the film are either in complete denial (My son Simon would never dare to do that!) or they are guilty as well, paying the girlís for sexual favors (What the hell; theyíre selling and Iím buying!). In contrast to the depravity involved, the images are often beautifully captured by the cinematography of Maxime Desmet and the precise editing of Wouter van Luijn. Often framed in beautiful landscapes, the majority of the scenes take place outdoors using natural lighting, the individuals sometimes captured in a long shot, distanced from the actual events that are occurring. Throughout the film are interspersed some ugly and violent scenes that challenge whether we are viewing an exploitative film, or a film that is shot with a completely honest point of view that is committed to showing the facts for what they truly are.

Either way this is a brutally frank piece of filmmaking and audiences may not be prepared for the onslaught to the senses that is involved. Eller is a one man tour-de-force as he writes, produces and directs this explosive package all in his debut film. Whether you like it or not, this is a powerful film that challenges our assumptions and world views; isnít that ultimately what real art should do?

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 2.66:1 HD 1080p 24/fps video, which is encoded in a strong AVC MPEG-4 compression, giving us an impressive picture with extreme definition; the picture is impressive in its capturing of details.

Audio

Two audio options are included in Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and Dutch Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. The soundtrack features music for hipsters with plenty of bass. Dialogue occasionally gets drowned out but there is optional English and English SDH subtitles in a yellow font.

Extras

The only extra on this release is the original theatrical trailer (2:06).

Packaging

Packaged in a regular Blu-ray keep case with reversible cover art.

Overall

A splendidly delivered package that delights in exposing the sordid underbelly of life. This film thrusts the viewer headfirst into the fray and delivers the raw emotions up-close and personal. Not for squeamish viewers or those seeking a feel-good film; Eller takes off the gloves and challenges the viewer with this uncertain coming of age tale.

The Film: A Video: A Audio: B+ Extras: F Overall: C-

 


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