When someone dies a horrible death, their spirit becomes confused & angry.
It becomes . . . VINYAN.
Reading the tagline supplied by Sony Entertainment for their recent home video release of Fabrice Du Welz's Vinyan, one would expect it were a low budget horror film, perhaps in the vein of The Grudge. Vinyan, however, is anything but. This beautifully shot - yet extremely disturbing - voyage into madness has more in common with films outside the supernatural genre. I can easily see it alienating a good-sized portion of movie-going audiences, including those looking for some cheap scares. On the other hand, viewers looking for something unusual and intense may find this film engaging.
Vinyan tells the story of a middle-aged couple struggling with the loss of their only son from a tsunami six months prior to the start of the movie. Jeanne (Emmanuelle Beart) and Paul (Rufus Sewell) are doing their best to get over this tragedy. At a fundraiser, however, the couple view some footage shot by a photographer named Kim (Julie Dreyfus) of Burmese children, and Jeanne is convinced that their son is amongst them.
The evidence is sketchy at best, but Paul acquiesces to his wife's obsession and agrees to take a dangerous trek to Burma to search for their lost son. Their journey is facilitated by some very questionable locals and traffickers, including one of Kim's contacts. Needless to say, their journey does not go very well, as Sony's package art for this DVD makes clear.
Vinyan's storyline seems very familiar. Its premise of a couple searching for a son lost to another culture is a little reminiscent of John Boorman's The Emerald Forest. Their journey away from civilization and sanity will have one thinking of Apocalypse Now (a review quote printed on the front cover references the flick), though its beautifully shot jungle scenes and documentary style reminded me more of Barbet Schroeder's La Vallee.
Familiarity aside, Vinyan is an engrossing movie. Du Welz and director of photography Benoit Debie are to be credited for making this a visually stunning journey. As mentioned before, the jungle is captured in its breathtaking beauty (Vinyan was filmed in Thailand). Dream sequences are hallucinatory, and color is boldly used throughout. Beart is terrific as the obsessed mother, and her descent into madness through the course of the movie is well-played and does not go overboard. Sewell is efficient as the frustrated and skeptical husband.
It should be stated that Vinyan's conclusion is very disturbing and will turn off many moviegoers. Prevalent in Sony's cover art are the large pack of feral wild children, deep in the Burmese jungle, that Jeanne and Paul encounter in the final third of the movie. I don't want to spoil the ending, but the movie does conclude with a series of powerful yet unsettling images.
Vinyan is definitely not for everyone, but if you're curious about a documentary-style take on the ill-named "torture porn" genre, this film may be right up your alley. Highly recommended.
Sony gives Vinyan an anamorphic widescreen presentation in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Colors look absolutely fantastic here. Details vary a bit, but that actually supports the documentary feel of the movie.
Two audio tracks are present on this DVD: an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 and a French language Dolby Digital 5.1. The English track is the default and the one I listened to. Overall, it's a strong and dynamic presentation. Dialogue was tricky at times, though, both due to accent and ambient noise.
Optional subtitles are available in English and French.
Sony often packs their DVDs with loads of trailers, and Vinyan is no exception. An ad for the Blu-ray format and spots for Nothing But the Truth, What Doesn't Kill You, and The Poker Club precede the main menu. A hefty Previews link provides access to these, as well as additional trailers for Assassination of a High School President, Dark Streets, The Devil's Tomb, REC, Messengers 2: The Scarecrow, Anacondas: Trail of Blood, Fragments, The Grudge 3, Boogeyman 3, Against the Dark, Red Sands, Screamers: The Hunting, Waltz with Bashir, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, The Shield - Seasons 1 - 6, Rescue Me - Seasons 1 - 4, Damages - Season 1, and The Da Vinci Code. There's also an ad for Fearnet.com.
More significant, however, is the lengthy Vinyan: The Making of (49:35), a behind-the-scenes documentary that is much more in-depth than the traditional promotional shorts that are dumped onto discs as extras. It's also presented in anamorphic widescreen.
Vinyan is a powerful and unsettling movie about a couple who takes a Heart of Darkness-style trip into Burma and finds only madness and death. It won't appeal to many, but for those looking for something memorable, this visually stunning exercise comes highly recommended.