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You know, when you're pretty sure you've got the coronavirus (sudden onset of cough, fever, aches and pains, and you very rarely get sick) the best thing to do is cue up
a Dutch movie about dissolute beautiful rich kids who don't know the value of life. The central idea here is that the kids' descent into an amoral hell will give your (the reviewer's) eventual death some small meaning.
Director Rene Eller makes this descent quite rapturous and handsome, applying a fractured time-frame to disorient our understanding of events, until Eller pulls the rug out from under us. Thanks a lot, pal! Now I can't even climb into the grave without wondering if it was all worth it.
Eller's story is based on Elvis Peeters' book, and, it's claimed, on ‘true events'. These events unspool out of chronological order, but are organized in four chapters representing the individual lead characters: Thomas (Aime Claeys), Simon (Tijmen Govaerts), Liesl (Pauline Casteleyn), and Ruth (Maxime Jacobs). Already we know things go haywire, as Thomas is seen early on deposing in court, so the questions are down ultimately to what happens and how. This is revealed in multi-layered flashes back and forth through time, as the principals churn through memories good and bad.
The good is pretty good, depending on how dissolute you like your drug and booze fueled sexual ennui. No mistake these are attractive youth, on the cusp of adulthood, riding bikes through the Northern European countryside, on the way to nowhere. Stops include getting naked (a lot) and romping in an abandoned caravan, where they quickly hatch the get-rich scheme of filming homemade porn. (Resulting in a few short scenes of graphic sex that set the tone of verisimilitude needed to pull the movie's trick off.)
But the bad is pretty bad, too, as things spiral out-of-control. People and animals get hurt, but we keep coming back to the beginning, each time feeling the idyl becoming a little more crass and meaningless as we learn more of what's to come. By the film's numbing conclusion, we may conclude we don't give a damn about these spoiled rich kids, and their hot, smooth bodies, and their aimlessness, and one particular kid's descent into raging venality, or what happens and how, and especially why, and if that why is any more real or valid than any other why.
Maybe watching We (AKA Wij and not to be confused with another movie named We, also released in 2018) while thinking I was doomed by COVID-19 was a bad idea. (But I've had a week to think on it, and return to the land of the living, so there's that.) We involves four hot Dutch teens with cushy lives ahead of them and nothing much to do one Summer. As you'd expect, they quickly dive into a world of sex and casual cruelty that ends badly. Drawing comparisons to the films of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine, We is lush and compelling, but empty and rotten at the core, pedaling a message of meaninglessness. It's not so much shocking as it is utterly dispiriting, and nothing I'd want to revisit. Rent It if you need the kicks, or have a good time and just mainline Spring Breakers instead.
Artsploitation brings us We in a shimmering 2.66:1 ratio presentation, bathed in the warm glow of the sun and verdant greens of the countryside. That is, colors bear a stylized tint that borders at times on a sickly yellow-green hue. The transfer enjoys an acceptable level of detail, most especially effective in daylight scenes, wherein trees and foliage look great. Darker scenes don't hold up quite as nicely, with shadowy areas losing some definition, but never collapsing completely. Overall, the movie looks quite fine for Blu-ray, though it's not reference quality, and one assumes the mildly gauzy film-look is entirely intentional.
Audio Tracks included are both in Dutch Language, either in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound or 2.0 Stereo. Both tracks are OK, with distortion and damage free dialog. The dynamic range is pretty robust, with a loud bottom end highlighted by the musical soundtrack, which is pushed right to the front. Dimensionality is subtle at best, as the soundtrack is otherwise dialog-heavy and doesn't rely on much beyond that and the music.
Extras are limited to English Subtitles and Trailers.
We involves four hot Dutch teens with cushy lives ahead of them and nothing much to do one summer. As you'd expect, they quickly dive into a world of sex and casual cruelty that ends badly. Drawing comparisons to the films of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine, We is lush and compelling, but empty and rotten at the core, pedaling a message of meaninglessness. It's not so much shocking as it is utterly dispiriting, and nothing I'd want to revisit. Rent It if you need the kicks.
- Kurt Dahlke