- Peter Monsaert offers up a portrait of two men, a childless father and a fatherless child, in a family drama which defies destiny to espouse the light of life in the South
Peter Monsaert previously turned heads in 2012 thanks to his first feature film Offline [+see also:
film profile], which tells the story of a wounded man - an ex-convict - whose rehabilitation doesn’t go as planned. As well as scooping the Amiens Festival’s Grand Prize, the movie also earned itself the Ensor for Best Screenplay. The director then returned 4 years later with Flemmish Heaven [+see also:
interview: Peter Monsaert
film profile], linking back up with his favourite actor at that time, Wim Willaert, who once again portrayed a worn-down man in a sombre and violent tale, leaving little room for redemption. In Nowhere [+see also:
interview: Peter Monsaert
film profile], which opened the Ostend Film Festival last week, he has made a dramatic u-turn, starting the film off in these lands he knows so well, only to let it loose towards the light in an unexpected finale where hope is possible.
Nowhere opens by way of a handheld camera amidst a dark and onerous atmosphere. We follow 55-year-old André, a former lorry driver who’s now a construction manager. We soon realise we’re looking at a grieving father who works himself to death while going over and over the tragedy. The devastating aesthetic of the grey industrial zones he inhabits effectively echoes the emotional desert he is lost in.
But his life, which is as lifeless as it is monotonous, is turned upside down when he catches lost young man and building site squatter Thierry carrying out a burglary. The childless father takes a liking to this parentless child. The gap in their lives and their desire for a bond dovetail, giving rise to a deep friendship which unearths feelings they believed dead and buried.
But when Thierry turns out to be more than a little resistant to any form of authority, the renewed threat of a hard-to-bury criminal past hangs heavily over André. When everything conspires to drive them apart and forces them back towards their dilapidated lives, André and Thierry strive to remain united, to lift the veil on the young man’s troubled family history. Just when they no longer knew where they were, they find themselves in the here and now, offering each other comfort and freedom.
Through the singular journey embarked upon by these loving men – a destroyed man and boy - Peter Monsaert offers us the rare luxury of seeing men cry. André is played by the intense Koen de Bouw, whose scored and hardened features leave a lasting impression, and his tears even more so. Opposite him, Thierry is played by Noa Tambwe Kabati in his first major role, a genuine revelation whose alternately radiant and opaque spirit offers a powerful counterpoint to De Bouw’s. Both of them lose themselves in injunctions to masculinity, which seem to define them almost in spite of themselves, but which they gradually free themselves from as best they can.
Starting out as a bleak social drama, anchored in a ruthless world of work and survival which crushes bodies and souls, the film ends with the protagonists finding light at the end of the tunnel, offering its protagonists other options and opening the door to a glimmer of hope. Almost against all expectations, Peter Monsaert bravely ops for a happy ending which is anything but sentimental.
(Translated from French)
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