Title: Vinyan (2008)
Director: Fabrice Du Welz
Cast: Russell Sewell, Emmanuelle Beart
So this is what I love about watching movies, discovering new directors and filmmakers. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you discover new filmmakers with interesting visions. How I came to discover Vinyan is my good friend Neil Fulwood of The Agitation of the Mind reviewed it a couple days ago and sparked my interest, particularly because while reading its premise it reminded me of the premise for John Boorman’s The Emerald Forest (1985). So I rented them both and watched them back to back. What I didn’t expect was for both films to be so different! While both films are about parents in search for lost children, in terms of tone and atmosphere, both films are worlds apart. The Emerald Forest is an eco-friendly film, with beautiful colors and landscapes, while Vinyan was a much darker and psychological beast.
In Vinyan, two parents have lost their only child in a Tsunami. When the tsunami hit, the kid was swept away by the current never to be seen again. The couple is having a hard time accepting that they might never see their child again. Now this couple is well off monetarily. They have so much money that they invest in a non profit organization that helps homeless children around the world. They are shown a video of homeless children in Burma, to see if they can fund help for them, when suddenly, the mother spots a silhouette on the video. She swears it’s her long lost son! Could it be that he is still alive? This blurry silhouette that isn’t even facing the camera sparks the mothers desire to see her child again, she swears he must have survived the Tsunami. And so, she looks for a local smuggler who can take her and her husband on a search to Burma. But is it all worth it? Is that blurry image on the video concrete evidence that their long lost son is still alive? Or are they just chasing ghosts?
Vinyan is a film about death and learning to deal with it. Like Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006) and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1984), Vinyan deals with learning to accept that we all die, and that death is a part of our journey. The big stop, the grand finale. Curtains go down, the show is over. If we don’t cope with death, we are prone to loose it mentally, go mad and do stupid things. In Vinyan, finding the lost child isn’t really the central point of the film, this film is more about the couple’s inability to accept things. It’s their journey of denial. We see a mother and a father who go on a steady psychological decline, especially the mother who just won’t accept that her son might be dead. In a key sequence a group of people are firing up these balloons with candles up in the air, supposedly this is done to guide lost spirits to the great beyond. But the mother won’t light one because she says her son isn’t dead.
The video isn’t proof enough that he is alive, and let’s face it, the kid was wiped away by a tsunami. I’d come to the conclusion that he died. So does her husband in the film, who is constantly trying to dissuade her from going on this journey. Still, she won’t give up her search. I get it though, she is the mother and she didn’t have the finality of being able to bury her child. So that uncertainty will always be there, looming in her mind. It’s the reason why she never gives up the search. We feel like we are being dragged down with this couple, deeper and deeper into their oblivion.
Performance wise, both actors out do themselves. I’ve always thought Russell Sewell is so underused in films, he is such a good actor, on this film he represents reason, and a call to sanity. But even he has his doubts, maybe the kid might still be out there. The one that really shines performance wise is Emmanuelle Beart, the desperate mother in search of her long lost child. I really enjoyed her performance, its one of those films where an actor dives really deep into the effects of dementia. And the deeper we dive into her sadness and mental instability, the darker the film gets. In this sense it was similar to Martin Scorcece’s Shutter Island (2009), where the deeper we went into Leonardo DiCaprio’s mind, the deeper and darker the film got. The environments in Vinyan (even nature itself) match the feelings that the characters are going through. The films surroundings are representatives of the main characters mental states. It’s no wonder there’s a major storm about half way through the film all the way till the end. The film is heavy with symbolisms, especially towards its last moments. Emotions and feelings personify and take shape.
And speaking of the end, well, I’m not going to spoil it for you guys, but Vinyan does enter horror film territory and I loved that! The last half of the movie gets really gruesome. I've kept this one as spoiler free as I can, now its up to you to go and watch it. Nothing wrong with this one in my book, a dark psychological piece every step of the way.
Rating: 5 out of 5