Directed by: Patrice Toye | 99 minutes | drama | Actors: Tijmen Govaerts, Ina Geerts, Line Pillet, Julia Brown, Greet Verstraete, Dominique Van Malder, Peter Seynaeve, Julia Ghysels, Filip Hellemans, Jackie Gilles, Rashif El Kaoui
‘Muidhond’ is the film adaptation of the eponymous and successful book by Inge Schilperoord. The story focuses on twenty-three-year-old Jonathan (Tijmen Govaerts), who has been provisionally released after a month-long prison term. He goes back to live with his mother in a new apartment near the dunes. Determined to become a better person, Jonathan sets out to control his behavior and get his life back on track. To give himself a new lease of life, he has also taken on the care of an injured muidhound, a carp-like fish, believed to have medicinal properties. Jonathan seems to be making progress, but this changes with the arrival of Elke, a sassy ten-year-old girl next door. Elke is lonely and neglected by her alcoholic mother. She is determined from day one to befriend her taciturn boy next door, but Jonathan doesn’t like it and is also hesitant. What Elke does not know is that Jonathan is a pedophile.
There is hardly a crime in our society that is more heavily condemned than pedophilia. It is a subject that leads to the necessary emotional feelings for many. On the one hand you have the people who think that the punishment for this offense cannot be severe enough. Forced castration or chopping off hands are things that are all too often suggested by them. On the other hand, you have the people who prefer to avoid the subject. The repulsiveness of the subject is something they find difficult to face. Films about pedophilia are therefore not often made. With ‘Muidhond’, director Patrice Toye chooses to deal with this difficult and sensitive subject. brave. As a director, you can quickly get into the danger zone with such a subject. Toye, however, handles the matter very carefully and with great sensitivity, in a very calm manner and with respect at all times.
Tijmen Govaerts plays an excellent role in the role of Jonathan. It undoubtedly takes a lot of courage to choose such a role. Govaerts never plays his character over the top, but always with a low realism. You therefore always have the idea that you are looking at someone of flesh and blood. In addition, certain films often tend to cast a certain type of actor for the role of a pedophile; the mustachioed and bespectacled forties (more often than not overweight) is a common stereotype. Govaerts stands in stark contrast to this image with his perfectly normal appearance. With his reserved yet present game, the young Govaerts is a talent to look forward to.
In contrast to the acting of Govaerts, the situations in ‘Muidhond’ are unfortunately not always credible. When it turns out that shy Jonathan has a quiet admirer at work, a woman his own age, it’s hard to take this seriously with all the foreknowledge of Jonathan’s awkward personality. This feels like a processed story element that is only meant for extra excitement in the story. The fact that Jonathan and Elke have become neighbors also leaves question marks. How is it possible for someone like Jonathan to live next door to a young child? It’s understandable that Elke’s boozy mother hardly seems aware of this, but what about Jonathan’s mother? And more importantly, what about the police? The film falls short in credibility in these areas. Too bad, because Toye has managed to make a challenging film from a number of other points of view.
Not an easy viewing experience by any means, but ‘Muidhond’ is certainly brave. And that’s more than can be said about many other films that tackle this topic.