Brabançonne – *(*)

Posted: December 10, 2014 in 2014, Belgium, Comedy, Flanders, Musical, romcom

My mom liked this Flemish musical. A lot. In fact, she liked it so much, she sang along loudly not caring about the others in the theatre. She’s 80. It was the best moment of the movie experience.

Brabançonne is yet another movie with great intentions but failing to meet the expectations. It’s refreshing to see a true Belgian comedy, where you have both Flemish and French-speaking Belgian characters. There are quite a lot of bilingual films recently, but most are dramas or detective stories. This is a musical and a romantic comedy for the masses. You kind of hope that it will not only entertain a large audience, but also bring the two communities in this country a bit closer to each other.

Unfortunately this will only be a success in Flanders. It most likely won’t be a big hit in Wallonia and Brussels. It’s nothing like Rien A Declarer, a comedy which focused on the stereotypical differences between a French customs officer and his (French-speaking) Belgian colleague at the end of the border control era. The humor of this one is too regional, the references to the culture as well and 60% of the movie is spoken in Flemish.

The set up is good though. A European championship of brass bands is organized in Brussels and two teams compete to represent Belgium. One band resides in a small little Flemish town and the other in – you’ve guessed it – a Walloon village. An excellent start for a comedy in which all the cliché’s of both communities can be exploited. But not even after ten minutes the story shifts to a Romeo & Julia rip off in which the daughter of the Flemish conductor falls for the trumpet soloist of the Walloon band. All references to the differences between the communities are weak, stereotypical, too PC and lame. The whole romantic side story is unbelievable. The acting is one-dimensional. And the setting is utopian. (it would be great if we could live in a Belgium where each inhabitant speaks their own language and fully understands what the other is saying – but it’s not the reality)

So all you’re left with are the moments in which the characters burst out into songs. Some are funny, others are recognizable, but none of them date from after the eighties and several are used in a wrong context. None of the Flemish songs are known in the south of Belgium (nor in The Netherlands for that matter). Only a few of the songs in French are known in Flanders (and in France).

It’s sad, because the intentions are great. But at least my mom had fun. Which made me happy.


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