Director: Rene Eller | 100 minutes | drama | Actors: Pauline Casteleyn, Aimé Claeys, Gaia Sofia Cozijn, Axel Daeseleire, Tom de Vreese, Joke Devynck, Laura Drosopoulos, Pieter Embrechts, Gonny Gaakeer, Tijmen Govaerts, Mattijn Hartemink, Filip Hellemans, Maxime Jacobs, Michael Pas, Gert Portael, Barbara Sarafian, Lieselot Siddiki, Karlijn Sileghem, Tom Van Bauwel, Friso van der Werf, Salomé van Grunsven, Dominique Van Malder, Vincent Van Sande, Christine van Stralen, Steven van Watermeulen, Folkert Verdoorn, Thierry Wybauw
“How do you keep boredom off your body? By attacking her, we literally did. “Elvis Peeters – pseudonym of the Flemish musician and writer Jos Verlooy – caused quite a stir with his 2009 novel” We “. A sticker on the book already warns the reader against the explicit content: the eight young people that Peeters presents in his book are completely derailed from a moral point of view. “We are always pushing our limits. You have to reach boundaries and then move them. “These four boys and four girls feel invincible and untouchable, until disaster strikes. But whether that will change them forever is the question. Dutch filmmaker René Eller ventured into a film adaptation of “We” and attempted to capture the cross-border and all-dominating hedonism of a generation. His only partial success in this may also be due to certain shortcomings in the book.
“We” (2018) is told in a four-part series, always from the perspective of another member of the group of friends and the demoralization always goes one step further. Each part of the four-part starts on the same summery 10th June in the Flemish village of Wachtebeke, just across the border with the Netherlands (which is why half of the young people are Dutch and the other half Flemish). It soon becomes clear that they are already quite aware of their body, that of the opposite sex and what they can do with their body. On top of a viaduct, the girls challenge the racing drivers. In the first chapter ‘Simon’ it is all still quite innocent (Eller does not yet show what actually happens, and the horrific consequences thereof), but by the time we get to the third chapter ‘Liesl’ we know that these young people not knowing any compassion. The young people come together in a remote place, where they fully experiment with sex and their own and each other’s bodies. Before long they decide to go a step further and make sex videos of each other, which they offer on a professional website for a fee to a target audience of mostly respected and much older men. Thomas (Aimé Claeys), the self-proclaimed leader of the group, argues that there is a way to make even more money even faster: by letting the girls sell their bodies like prostitutes.
In doing so, he unintentionally sets in on the loss of friendship: the young people are becoming more reckless and violent. There is no question of any kind of empathy – towards anyone. Even the death of one of them, after a gruesome and bizarre “accident” in which an icicle plays the lead, proves to be unable to slow down their insatiable appetite for sensation, lust, money and power. Thanks to the narrative structure, in which each chapter looks both back and forward with a different perspective, we already know from the start that it will lead to a lawsuit. You would think this immoral behavior should not go unpunished.
As in the novel, in the film “We” is style over substance. Anyone who wants to be shocked by completely derailed young people can have fun: Eller shows the most explicit scenes without batting an eyelid and looking away is almost impossible. Three extreme scenes put viewers with some degree of sensitivity to the test. Just as Peeters does in the novel, Eller records the moral decline of this group of sixteen and seventeen-year-olds without passing judgment on it. He records it, that’s all. As a result, “We” is just as cold and distant as its protagonists. The viewer is made impossible to sympathize with them. Who are these young people really and how come they behave like that? We only get snippets of their background (only of the four after whom a chapter is named, incidentally, of the other four we only know their name), the relationship with their parents (who, in contrast to the young people, all experience and well-known actors) is minimally touched upon. It seems that at least Thomas comes from a not too warm nest, but with the other three that we follow more closely, there doesn’t seem to be much more to it than the average teenage problems. Where their outrageous attitude comes from is a big mystery that we want an answer to but not get.
However, the distance that is kept is also the power of “We”. Because the disturbing behavior of the jo The brutal brutal way in which they are portrayed makes them seem extra harsh and the resulting atrocities. Moreover, due to the lack of an explanation for their behavior, it is difficult to erase it from your retina. And letting so much immorality take place in a sun-drenched, idyllic Flemish village only enhances the contrast. This film can be seen as a fascinating but jet-black portrait of a generation, or as a disturbing account in which it is better to pay more attention to the elaboration of the story and the characters than to portray moral decay as explicitly as possible. in young people. You will have an opinion on “We” anyway, because it is a film that leaves its mark.