Dividing Lines

in 6th International Film Festival Bratislava

by Reinhard Bradatsch

How to handle the end of a relationship? How to cope with losing the contact with your child because of a judicial decree? And what happens when one partner is still in love with the other one?

Belgian director Joachim Lafosse poses these questions in his directorial debut Folie privée (Private Madness). Of course, the subject of broken relationships and the emotional reactions to it has already been transformed by many famous directors into motion pictures in different visual ways. However the film which was awarded the prize of the FIPRESCI jury at the 6 th International Film Festival Bratislava deals with this everyday life matter in an intense and realistic way rarely seen before.

The story is about 31 year-old Pascale who broke up with her husband Jan and now wants to start a new life with her younger lover Didier. When the couple arrive at their country house in order to spend a weekend together with Pascale’s seven-year old son Thomas, they come across Jan. He refuses to leave the house although he has already signed the divorce papers: “We should try it once again”, he tells his ex-wife hoping that there is a way back to their old life. However the living situation for both of them has changed totally .

Lafosse and his small family team transforms the old Greek myth of Medea (who took revenge on her husband Jason for his unfaithfulness by killing their children) into a strong and densely narrated everyday life drama: Jan who is brilliantly performed by co-writer Kris Cuppens takes over Medea’s role as the parent who cannot accept being excluded from the warm family nest where another person has taken over his role. First, he tries to find a way to Pascale’s heart by confessing his persisting love. But soon his crying and begging for affection turns into wild aggression and stubbornness as Pascale and Didier try to get rid of him. His increasing mental and physical arguments with Pascale and Didier have, of course, main effects on their child Thomas sitting on the fence: His picture of a family with two fathers where everyone lives in peace and harmony cannot become reality.

Concerning these touching scenes mainly shot by digital hand camera, it’s not a matter of spoken words, it’s rather a matter of emotions being reflected by the faces and motions of the actors. Especially Cuppens points out his character as a tragic one soon turning into the devil himself. His realistic and mostly improvised portrayal of a deeply disrupted person gives the movie a very dramatic touch.This leads at the end to an inevitable accident changing the lives of all involved.

Besides the personal subject and the dependence upon the Medea saga, the movie works also as a metaphor for the split Belgian society: Like a family with two fathers the Dutch-speaking Flems and the French-speaking Walloons are not able to come together and live in a Belgian society which is built on respect and tolerance.

The FIPRESCI jury decided to give the prize to Folie Privée because of its intense and compact image of a commonplace subject but also because we want to support the distribution and knowledge of this piece of young and innovative Belgian cinema.

Reinhard Bradatsch