Director: Fabrice Du Welz | 96 minutes | drama, horror, thriller | Actors: Emmanuelle Béart, Rufus Sewell, Julie Dreyfus, Petch Osathanugrah, Amporn Pankratok, Josse de Pauw, Omm, Borhan Du Welz
Have you ever heard of Orson Welles’s “Heart of Darkness” (1939)? It is a story from 1939 that should have been a film, but with which Welles got no further than a radio play. It inspired Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 masterpiece “Apocalypse Now”. Now it is no doubt a source of inspiration for “Vinyan”. Like “Heart of Darkness,” “Vinyan” is about a search for a missing person deep in the jungle of any hell on Earth, in this case Burma.
The idea is exciting. Two (or more) people go looking and you can already feel that nothing good can come of this. Contact with the outside world becomes increasingly difficult the deeper one delves into the rabbit hole. Characters see themselves hopelessly at the mercy of the elements and each other, in an environment that is alien to them and hostile. And then we are not even talking about people with bad intentions. This confrontation with each other and those other people, especially criminal ones, is exciting and fascinating. In this film we are transported into the dark world of sex trafficking in children and see the two main characters and ourselves confronted with our own visions of good and evil and right or wrong. We are constantly tossed back and forth: who is “good” and who is not, who can you trust? That’s the first half of the movie: exciting, compelling, intriguing.
Then comes the second half. More and more it becomes clear that something is not right. What that is should remain a surprise, but it is not good. And that’s fine, can work well, can be exciting, as long as it remains credible, as long as it is realistic. After all, we are not dealing with a science fiction film here. That we are ultimately not dealing with a realistic drama, but with a horror-like thriller, becomes clear much too late and is very disappointing. Because the carefully constructed tension of two traumatized people, who hate and love each other at the same time, both consumed by guilt and selfish desires, is broken down brick by brick in the second half of the film, ending in a ridiculous, invented ‘climax’ of nonsense. You actually know it as soon as the first mysterious, mud-covered children appear: this is going in the wrong direction! What begins as an indictment of inhumanity and a confrontation with the blackest in man, ends, unfortunately, as a shattered balloon.
Looking back to the opening, the film unfortunately lived up to the fears that arose in the gut. With much too large letters and therefore illegible opening credits and the subsequent, vague opening sequence, we are presented with something that may have been a nice idea, but mainly evokes irritation. The film that follows hardly suggests that we are dealing with a horror-like thriller, until the last part, but then we don’t believe it anymore. The only thing that remains is a film with an idea that is much too conceived, which sucks out all the power.