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Review: The Chapel


- Dominique Deruddere takes us behind the scenes of the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Competition in the company of a young virtuoso pianist consumed by her demons

Review: The Chapel
Taeke Nicolaï in The Chapel

After fifteen or so years spent in the USA, Dominique Deruddere (selected for the Best International Film Oscar in 2001 via Everybody’s Famous!) is back in Belgium armed with The Chapel [+see also:
interview: Dominique Deruddere
film profile
, which was unveiled in the Ostend Film Festival and presents itself as a psychological drama about a young virtuoso pianist who must overcome her demons in order to let her art shine through.

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Jennifer was born for this. From her earliest childhood days she has been playing piano, avidly supported by her mother who does everything possible to sustain her daughter’s passion. Her successive sacrifices pay off, because once Jennifer reaches adulthood, she finds herself in the running to take part in one of the most prestigious classical music competitions in the world, the Queen Elizabeth Competition. Her selection sees her catapulted into The Chapel, an exceptional residence where the finalists are housed in the days preceding the big day, in order to protect them from the pressures of the outside world and prepare themselves as best they can for their big moment. But here’s the catch: this isolation inevitably brings out tension between the participants, but it also gives rise to private, inner struggles. Confronted with this forced introspection, Jennifer is assailed by memories she would rather forget.

How far can we go to accomplish our dreams, and, on another note, how far are our parents prepared to go to live out their dreams through us? This is just one of the questions raised by Dominique Deruddere in The Chapel. Our heroine’s indisputable sense of vocation wavers despite her undeniable talent, when she becomes aware of the actions taken by her parents to help her become the pianist she is today. With its ideal film decor - the chapel which provides a clear unity of place – and its unity of time (the week of rehearsals before the final), not to mention its perfectly suited dramaturgy (the candidates gradually leave the residence as they each take part in the competition) and gaggle of fitting characters (12 semi-finalists hailing from all over the world, united by their love of piano and divided by their common dream), we can well imagine an Agatha Christie-style drama unfolding, or an American teen slasher scenario, albeit one of a more cerebral kind. But this definitely isn’t the path chosen by the Flemish filmmaker, who chooses instead to focus on her heroine’s struggle to resolve her trauma. It’s regrettable that the movie isn’t more absorbing in its narration, but viewers will nonetheless appreciate the sober efficacity with which the piano scenes are directed, whether depicting rehearsals or concerts, and these scenes are brilliantly served by the magnetic intensity of lead actress Taeke Nicolaï any time she comes close to her instrument.

The Chapel is produced by Savage Film (Belgium) in co-production with Tarantula (Belgium). International sales are entrusted to Picture Tree International, while Paradiso are releasing the film in Belgium on 8 February.

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(Translated from French)

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