Waste Land, 2014.
Directed by Pieter Van Hees.
Starring Jérémie Renier, Natali Broods, Babetida Sadjo, Peter van den Begin, and Mourade Zeguendi.
A Brussels homicide cop (Jérémie Renier) begins to lose control of his life as he tries to solve a bizarre murder.
A child peacefully sleeps in his bed while a rabbit nightlight glows on the floor creating the impression that you are looking at a painting; he is not alone in the room as his father watches over him with a grim expression. Surreal elements start to creep in as desolate Brussels has the occasional sleeping inhabitant stretched out on benches or dozing in cars while a riverbed which contains a discarded wing back chair encounters a strong wind.
The father leaves his wife who is a teacher and son at school; he turns out to be a police inspector who gets to role play the victim at a murder scene which concludes with the suspect committing suicide. Adding to the anxiety of the law enforcement officer know as Leo is that he is to become a father for a second time and his own Dad is hospitalized.
Amongst gaining insight into his personal life Leo is investigating a murder which involves hand-carved African ritual sculptures which have a nightmarish quality to them; his own sanity is called into question as he has habit of mutilating himself. A criminal figure appears who may or may not be responsible for the killing; he talks about the senseless violence in the Congo and Brussels, the role of a homicide detective, and the emotional cost of starring into the heart of darkness. The speech echoes the menace and dread of Marlon Brando portraying Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now (1979).
The techno score combined with occasions of Operatic singing create a sense of urgency and dread. The colour pallet and urban setting resembles smoothing that could have been shot by David Fincher (Se7en) and the cinematography utilizes a documentary handheld approach as well as stylized imagery which at one point resembles Dante’s version of Hell. There is no quick cutting of scenes creating a leisurely pace which is to help display the gradual mental deterioration of an individual who has witnessed the worse of human behaviour for too long. The grandiose ambition of Waste Land in providing a deeper understanding into the human psyche is unfortunately undermined by a derivative storyline and cinematic style.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★/ Movie: ★★