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Review: The Fifth Season

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The Winter of Our Discontent announces the end of the world

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- A visually impressive work, full of symbols, discovered in competition in Venice and Cineuropa Prize in Les Arcs.

Review: The Fifth Season

After filming Khadak [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Jessica Woodworth
interview: Jessica Woodworth
film profile
]
(Lion of the Future 2006) in Mongolia and Altiplano [+see also:
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in Peru, filmmaker duo Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth shot the third instalment of their trilogy in the Belgian Ardennes where they live. The Fifth Season [+see also:
trailer
film focus
interview: Jessica Woodworth
film profile
]
is an eloquent mysticalecological reflection on a world that chose a cold isolated place to start its implosion. This co-production between Belgium, France, and the Netherlands was screened in the competition at the Venice Film Festival where it was warmly applauded by festival-goers, as if to warm themselves up after the never-ending winter into which this apocalyptic tale had plunged them.

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When time comes to chase away winter from this little village of Belgian farmers, they all come together for a ceremony whose traditional origin goes back to the beginning of time. A bonfire is built to ignite a straw representation of the season that brings cultivation to a standstill and cold into people’s hearts. But no torch, no amount of effort can light up the Big Fire, an event that in the end won’t happen. Without it, winter stays on for one, two, three extra seasons. As the village becomes strangled by increasing depravation, trees fall and the fauna becomes sterile and dies. Souls dry up and men regress towards an instinctive, dark, and brutal state. Pol, an out-of-work nomad beekeeper has chosen the wrong season to install his caravan on the edge of the village. This stranger and his disabled son soon become scape goats as the crowd prepares another bonfire that is much less festive...

Despite being made on a low budget and with the constraint of having to shoot the film’s four seasons during a single harsh winter month, The Fifth Season is a beautiful visual slap in the face. Hans Bruch Jr.’s photography confirms his talent as an aesthete, as already visible from his work in Gust Van den Berghe’s films (Little Baby Jesus of Flanders [+see also:
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film profile
]
and Blue Bird [+see also:
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film profile
]
), and the camera’s language — largely dominated by the hyper construction of sequence shots — acts as a narrator in a film that, in the duo’s filmography, is the one that gives the most importance to a story.

Dividing a film into seasons is not a new trick, but making these four winter seasons gives the film a certain kind of apocalyptic, faded timelessness, as if it were inhabited by Brueghel’s art. The images’ insisting rhythm and their accompanying score allow the audience to distance themselves and float above the story of these characters (mostly played by amateur actors or actors in their first roles) all marked by a deep "Belgian-ness". Yet the allegory intends to be universal thanks to numerous symbols. Any spectator paying attention will not miss the links with the filmmakers’ two previous films, which are similar in their particular attention to visual evocation and their unconventional editing. The rest is an issue of a thematic nature that the filmmakers sum up as an answer to a Werner Herzog quote: "What have we done to our landscapes? We have embarrassed our landscapes!"

(Translated from French)

photogallery

international title: The Fifth Season
original title: La cinquième saison
country: Belgium, Netherlands, France
sales agent: Films Boutique
year: 2012
directed by: Jessica Woodworth, Peter Brosens
screenplay: Jessica Woodworth, Peter Brosens
cast: Aurélia Poirier, Django Schrevens, Sam Louwyck, Gill Vancompernolle

main awards/selection

Biennale di Venezia 2012 Official Competition
Toronto International Film Festival 2012 
Hamburg Film Festival 2012 
Festival de Cinéma Européen des Arcs 2012 Cineuropa Prize
Göteborg International Film Festival 2013 
International Film Festival Rotterdam 2013 
Glasgow Film Festival 2013 
Mamers en Mars Film Festival 2013 
Seattle International Film Festival 2013 
Los Angeles Film Festival 2013 
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