Showing @ Filmhouse, Edinburgh until Sun 15 Dec @ times vary
Felix Van Groeningen / Belgium/Netherlands / 2012 / 111 mins
Films that delve into and explore the destructiveness of love are often held as cinematic triumphs, from Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine to Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Color, these terribly sad films acutely capture the true meaning of love, making them beautifully treasurable. Thus it appears Flemish director Felix Van Groeningen’s The Broken Circle Breakdown has created something which goes beyond its predecessors, creating a film which not only explores a broken heart but which looks at how grief when combined with religious and political ideology can tear a couple apart.
A stirring adaptation of Johan Heldenbergh and Mieke Dobbels‘ play, Groeningen’s movie follows bluegrass loving couple Elise (Veerle Baetens) and Didier (Heldenbergh), as they fall in love and then have to come to terms with an illness threatening to steal their young daughter away from them.
Drawing influence from Blue Valentine, Groeningen dismantles the films narrative in order to illuminate the past by pushing it together with the present, creating truly haunting moments as the couple’s lives change irrevocably. Both Baetens and Heldenbergh give moving performances as the ill-fated lovers, seeking answers for what’s happening to them but ultimately destroying each other in the process.
What makes Groeningen’s film different is the way in which he explores every angle which is hindering this couple’s relationship. Whether it be from the illness that is robbing them of the life they created, the religion Elise seeks solace in or President Bush’s decision to restrict federal funding towards stem cell research – ruining Didier’s love of America, it appears that everything they held dear is being questioned. The Broken Circle Breakdown is more than just a love story, it is a universal tale of grief and loss for the lives and dreams people seek and they ways in which they can cruelly be taken from them.