THE ORDEAL. 2004. DIRECTED BY FABRICE DU WELZ. STARRING LAURENT LUCAS, JACKIE BERROYER AND PHILIPPE NAHON. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
Cabaret singer Marc Stevens is unhappy about his life. Performing his songs in nursing homes to sex-starved old ladies is clearly not where he saw himself ending up. The thing is, if he’d only been able to see into the future just a little bit to where he was really going to end up, he’d have gone belting back to those crappy gigs and nookie-deprived octogenarians screaming ‘Come back! Come back! Don’t leave me, come back!’ or words to that effect…
On his way to a (probably) crappy Christmas party where ‘there might be producers’ to recognise his largely indifferent talents, Marc takes a wrong turning and ends up down a spooky country lane in the pitch dark in a torrential downpour in the middle of the night with his van on its last legs. Well, that doesn’t bode ill for Marc at all, I hear you say…
A local weirdo directs him to a rundown old guesthouse in the middle of nowhere. The proprietor, cuddly old Monsieur Bartel- that’s right, folks, we’re in Belgium- with his lovely woolly jumpers and fatherly manner is thrilled to bits to have Marc as a guest. A bit too thrilled, you might even say…
Things start going awry pretty quickly. Marc’s walk in the stunningly beautiful, bleak Belgian countryside on a winter’s morning while waiting for Bartel to ‘fix’ his van reveals a culture of bestiality amongst the decidely odd local men. They’re having sex with pigs, to be precise. Marc is not unnaturally shocked by this discovery. Imagine how shocked he is then when he finds out that the insane Bartel intends for Marc to replace his wife Gloria who ran out on him years before…
That’s right, Bartel bashes Marc over the head and puts him in one of Gloria’s old dresses. He shaves Marc’s head to make him look ugly- I’ll tell you why in a minute- and sodomizes him and even nails him to a cross when he tries to run away. The film’s French title is CALVAIRE, a reference to Christ’s crucifixion on Calvary.
Oh, and why does Bartel try to ugly up poor Marc? Because when the other men in the curiously woman-empty village find out that Bartel’s got himself a purty new wifey, they’re all going to want to have a crack at Marc/Gloria too…
Now do you see what trouble Marc’s unwittingly gotten himself into…? The tagline for the movie reads: ‘SOME PEOPLE WOULD KILL FOR COMPANY…’ Believe me when I tell you that they ain’t kidding…
A slow build-up leaves the viewer with his/her mouth hanging open at the antics of this isolated, sexually-deviant community in the middle of nowhere. The film was a huge hit at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and has been described as a work of genius by the film critics.
There are nods to other classic cinema shockers in it too which all film fan will adore. DELIVERANCE, STRAW DOGS, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, DON’T LOOK NOW and VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED all get a bit of a tip of the hat. STRAW DOGS, DON’T LOOK NOW and DELIVERANCE are three of my favourite films of all time so I was delighted with myself, sitting there watching them being lovingly acknowledged in this movie.
Two stand-out scenes deserve a mention and they both involve music. Check out Marc being pressured into singing for Bartel on his first night in the guesthouse. It’s funny and bizarre. Then watch the piano-playing and dancing scene in the World’s Creepiest Public House. It’s terrifying.
I wasn’t expecting much from this film before I watched it at the insistence of my bezzie mate.
‘Welcome to European extremity cinema,’ she said with a grin when the credits rolled at the end. Welcome indeed, I thought. I not only felt welcomed but I even wanted to stay longer and see more. Have a squint at this bleakly brilliant film and you’ll see what I mean.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY