Groenten Uit Balen – ***(*)

Posted: December 30, 2014 in 2011, Drama, Dramedy, Flanders, Political, Social Drama, XXX1/2

After comments from both a French and an American friend about not being interested in watching Flemish movies (you know who you are) and realizing that the last couple of movies made in Flanders were disappointing to say the least, it was time to watch Groenten Uit Balen, a minor box office hit a few years ago, which I somehow didn’t see when it was released in theaters.

It’s based on a theatre play that is set in the early seventies and focuses on a worker’s family during a long-lasting strike. The main character is Germaine Debruycker, an energetic and rebellious nineteen year old who works as a cashier in a local supermarket. She dreams of a different life, running off with a rich and famous foreigner and leaving her miserable home behind. But the future doesn’t seem all that bright… A strike in the local factory leaves her father without a wage for several weeks and she’s losing her best friend to an English truck driver who will take her to Liverpool. But the strike also attracts left-wing students from the University who want to support the laborers’ strike and one of them is the boy she had a crush on in high school. Maybe he’s her way out…

It’s a great movie. Some scenes remind you that it’s a filmed theatre piece, but others are very inventive and cinematic enough to shine on a big screen. The acting is superb. The cast is filled with big names (in Flanders), who – apart from Koen De Bouw – deliver a great performance. Stany Crets is excellent as the father. He clearly must have loved his character. Lucas Van den Eynde proves again how versatile he is. As the leader of the strike he’s quite powerful in his subdued way. But foremost, it’s Evelien Bosmans who acts so natural that she steals every scene she’s in. It’s our little Audrey Tatou.

This is a very Flemish movie, which contrary to what my French friend believes is different from a Belgian movie. This movie is filled with so many regional references that not even the French-speaking part of the country (nor the Dutch from The Netherlands) would understand. So let alone the French or the Americans. This movie won’t change their prejudiced view. It’s a poor girl meets rich boy story set in the seventies. BO-RING. So if you don’t know Natalia, you won’t appreciate her funny one minute cameo. If you don’t know Will Tura, you won’t smile with the comments made by the father about his success. If you aren’t familiar with our different accents, you’ll find the Dutch/Flemish spoken bizarre. The La Bamba kissing dance is something I even remember from my high school days.

But the best scene is universal. Should you ever watch it, wait for the Belgian chocolate scene. It may be a Flemish movie, but that couldn’t be more Belgian.

*** and because I’m proud of it another (*)

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