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Review: Forbidden to Sigh (2000)

Director: Alex Stockman | 98 minutes | | Actors: , , , , Marie Bulte, , Robbie Cleiren, , , , , Yvonne Lohle-Tart, , , , Roger Van Win,

Director Alex Stockman took inspiration for his “Forbidden to Sigh” from his great role model, French filmmaker Robert Bresson (“Pickpocket”, “L” Agent “,” Au Hasard Balthazar “). Bresson always wants to keep his films as simple as possible. Stockman also keeps “Forbidden to Sigh” very sober. By adding little sound to his film, by filming in black and white and by not deepening the characters much, the film is very subdued. The disadvantage of this is that as a viewer you do not know exactly what is going on in the head of the protagonists.

The film starts in total silence, which literally gives the viewer the feeling that it is forbidden to sigh. It only becomes more interesting when we learn a bit more about main character Joris. Anyone who has ever been sad about a broken relationship will recognize themselves in Joris. Silent, withdrawn, not knowing what to do with life and making desperate efforts to connect with your ex. This fact, recognizable to many people, provides the necessary sympathy for Joris, who at first sight has a dull character and seems quite unlikable due to his somewhat gruff attitude towards people around him. The attempts to contact his lover Valerie, call her, and reminisce about their relationship through the intercom are heartbreaking. The reason for the breakup remains an unanswered question.

Joris decides to go to Portugal after the breakup of the relationship. Before he leaves, he stays for a few days in a hotel in Brussels. In that hotel he develops a friendship with the owner’s daughter. A nice fact that could have been worked out much further, but which Stockman does not do, just to keep it cold and flat. Joris decides not to travel to Portugal. What made him decide this is unclear. He meets a doctor, with whom he develops a kind of friendship in a strange way. He also meets Luzie through this man, the woman who could well become his new great love. Both are clearly saddened by their past and the question is whether they can help each other with this or just pull each other into more depth.

The whole film radiates a chill and that is not only due to the black and white images and the depressed status of Joris. The atmosphere is a bit despondent and hopeless and this can easily be picked up by the audience. It is certainly not a cozy Saturday night film, but a film that makes you think about what can cause heartbreak in people. Despite its austere character, the film has something interesting. The characters are recognizable and are portrayed very credibly by the actors. Stockman may be a great filmmaker for the future. In any case, he has made a good start with “Forbidden to Sigh,” but there is still much to learn.

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