Sunday, 9 December 2012

Left Bank (Linkeroever)

The Reborn Identity

Left Bank (Linkeroever)
2008 Belgium
Directed by Pieter Van Hees
Exposure Cinema DVD Region 2

Warning: There will be a few spoilers in this, while I gently explore what I think the film may have been about.

This is another brilliant recommendation I got from Jonathan Rigby’s book Studies in Terror: Landmarks of Horror Cinema (reviewed here) and, as seems to be par for the course for the movies I’ve bought off of his recommendations, Left Bank kept me thoroughly bewitched, if bemused, for the length of its running time.

In fact, it had me confused right from the start as two women were seen walking down corridors, seeking a specific “hidden” nook or cranny in a building, but only one of them seemed to stay in the narrative and even then, only for the opening moments of the film... although I believe one of these characters, at least, becomes a plot point of the movie later on. This is definitely a movie I’m going to find myself watching again once I finish my enormous backlog of unwatched discs, that’s for sure.

Left Bank is pretty much a variant of the Rosemary’s Baby school of horror movie as far as I can make out, although it would be true to say that the identity of the baby at the end of the film is not necessarily who you think it will be. And there’s no actual pregnancy involved either (except maybe in a Lynch does Eraserhead kind of way in terms of something which I think is pretty irrelevant hatching surreally out of somebody’s knee at some point). If this is confusing you already, well yeah it started to confuse me a little too, although I’m sure a second viewing where I am better able to put all the puzzle pieces together would make things much more rewarding.

Left Bank tells the story of Marie (played brilliantly by a young actress named Eline Kuppens), an aspiring Olympic runner who sustains an injury and can’t go through to the next part of her career until she has allowed herself some months rest... in other words, she’s blown it for this time around. She meets and falls for the head of a local Archery Guild called Bob (played by Matthias Schoenaerts) and, because living with her mother when she’s supposed to be at home resting up would just get on her nerves, she moves in with him in his apartment in a block on the left bank of the city. The people who inhabit the building, however, are a bit weird and when the boyfriend of the girl who used to live in their apartment before the girl vanished off the face of the earth turns up, things start to get very interesting as the previous tenant’s lover and Marie investigate the area and the people of the area, going back to centuries gone by.

The film is slowly and evenly paced, brilliantly acted and has a beautiful sense of progressing unease and suspense as it wears into its hypnotic running time. Also, the sex scenes in this one, not something I usually pick up on, are quite brilliant and joyous and shot in as naturalistic a way as the rest of the movie is put together.

There’s also a kind of surprise ending on this one... once the two would-be investigators realise something about Marie’s current boyfriend and all the previous heads of this particular Archery Guild, and the various deaths start mounting up, you think you know how it’s all been put together... even if you don’t particularly know much useful about the time shifting, muddy black hole which has been in the ground under where the apartment building has been erected since ancient times. The ending does involve a sacrifice to dark forces, as you are by this point in the running time beginning to suspect, but the nature of the particular sacrifice is not what you think it will be and it would be true to say that although the main female protagonist is left changed by the final scenes of the movie, you may find that she’s not quite changed by them in the way you think she’s going to be... and there is a certain optimism amongst all the bleakness and sinister practices which begin to hover over all the characters like a cloud as the film progresses.

Really glad I saw this one and for lovers of films with covens, conspiracies and generally organised witchery... this movie is probably going to hit the right spot for you. The ending is, perhaps, less ambiguous than it first appears... once you begin to consider all the clues... and for people who like mysteries shrouded in the supernatural, this is also for you. Very much a recommendation from me and, again, another modern classic which deserves a lot more attention than it’s been getting.

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