The Mont Ventoux. For cycling enthusiasts there is no more beautiful mountain imaginable. Its ascent is, without exaggeration, heroic. The first kilometers are tough, but within the limits of what is permissible. Even far before the summit, nature gives a nice foretaste of what to expect for cyclists. Because where the tree line has passed, true hell begins. The Ventoux turns into a rocky moon landscape, where the wind is allowed to roar and the sun shows its brightest side. It is on those last kilometers where the riders have to cycle for their lives. It is on those flanks where old cyclist Tommy Simpson died over a cocktail of alcohol, amphetamines and merciless overheating. It is where the true magic of Mont Ventoux is hidden.
The giant of Provence offers the perfect location for drama, melancholy and exciting imagery. At first sight, it is therefore not surprising that Bert Wagendorp’s novel of the same name is given a film edition after only two years. The striking thing about it is that the film scenario came before the book. That scenario was already in full development when Wagendorp decided that there should be a good novel in the story. The book has already proved to be a great sales success in the Netherlands and the film will also attract a large crowd of spectators. At first glance, this is correct. “Ventoux” exudes a love for cycling. The dreaded mountain plays a vital role for the five main characters. After their graduation, they go to the South of France to say goodbye to their youth by climbing the mountain. In the descent, their unworldly friend Peter falls dead. What exactly happened in France remains a mystery. Thirty years later, the friends, four men and a woman, return to Mont Ventoux. In the shadow of their steep fear gner, they hope to get answers to all their questions.
This ideological background is accompanied by a rosy aesthetic that irrevocably takes the viewer back into the past. The many details increase the recognisability. The characters are very cuddly. The fact that the ascent of Mont Ventoux symbolizes their own troubled life developments indicates that the involvement with the characters is high. All this makes “Ventoux” seem extremely sympathetic.
However, there are also a few comments to make about ‘Ventoux’. The problem starts right away in the opening sequence. In it, the film fairly easily introduces all the main characters. The danger of this is that their character is instantly fixed. There is plenty of room in the novel to play with those personalities. In the film, there is no such freedom of movement, especially considering that ‘Ventoux’ largely looks at the past with a nostalgic look. The many flashbacks and the static opening do the characters little good.
In addition, not all characters seem so important. The secret of the past is, of course, the primary plot line. It is also not surprising that the perspective focuses on no more than two main roles. But now some characters come off very poorly. The denouement is therefore somewhat disappointing.
All in all, the lack of advancing dynamism and character motivation comes at the expense of the drama. Because the dialogues do not always sound smoothly and the decoupage regularly seems to be staged in a frenetic scene, the film gets stuck in detachment. The friendship in “Ventoux” is substantively a typical male comradeship. They show little emotions among themselves, they mainly communicate in a joke form and are little concerned about each other’s problems. That wonderful, true camaraderie comes to the fore very well in “Ventoux”, but as a spectator you don’t really get through. What remains is a film that in an attractive way honors the cycling romance of yesteryear. “Ventoux” is, partly due to the nice 80s music score, above all a pleasant look-away film.