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LEFT BANK

An almost-good Dutch import from 2008 that falls somewhere between ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE WICKER MAN. It’s an unerringly well visualized and acted film, but one that narratively speaking is extremely murky and undefined.

The Package
     LEFT BANK (LINKEROEVER) appears--perhaps justifiably--to have been lost in the flood of acclaimed European horror films that appeared in the late-00’s (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, INSIDE, FRONTIER(S), THEM, etc). That’s despite a good, if unspectacular, showing on the festival circuit, and a US DVD release by IFC Films.

The Story
     Marie is a professional runner whose life is dramatically affected by two things: a hunky new boyfriend named Bobby and an immune system deficiency that sidelines her running career for a month. On a date one night Bobby takes Marie to his high rise apartment, located on Antwerp’s scenic Left Bank. Following a bout of enthusiastic fucking she decides to move in which him.
     This apparent idyll, unfortunately, turns out to be anything but. The apartment’s other tenants are weird and stand-offish, and Marie is afflicted with vomiting and disquieting dreams involving crying infants and sucking holes in the ground. She also learns that the previous tenant, a young woman, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Worst of all, Marie severely injures her right knee while jogging, which adds a further two months of professional inactivity.
     Curious about the previous tenant, Marie gets in touch with the woman’s boyfriend Dirk. From him she’s given a most haunting note left by the woman, together with photos of the land upon which the apartment building was constructed. Marie also learns some unsavory facts about the area: apparently the Left Bank was once inhabited by the outcasts of society (witches, etc). Marie’s spiritually-minded mother opines that the lingering repercussions of the Left Bank’s former inhabitants are the reason for all the problems Marie has been having. Marie herself, however, comes to suspect she may be pregnant.
     Other problems include the increased presence of Dirk, which inflames Bobby’s jealous nature, and the unexpected death of Marie’s mother. Plus, her injured knee is only getting worse…

The Direction
     LEFT BANK is marked by a confident and authoritative visual style. Equally adroit are the hallucinatory interludes, such as a couple of kaleidoscopic party scenes and a couple more sequences that, to borrow a quote from horror novelist Ramsey Campbell, have the audience “groping in their memories for the point at which the dream must have begun.” Also noteworthy are the eye-openingly graphic, artifice-free sex scenes that skirt hardcore, and actually work, given that the heroine’s physical and spiritual transformation is so integral to the film--so too her possible pregnancy.
     Yet the film is problematic. The overdone character development of the early scenes could have stood to be pared down, and the meandering narrative of the later ones--in which pregnancy concerns, a rival love interest and the festival of Samhain are layered into an already overflowing narrative--tightened up. Then there’s the ending, which adds reincarnation into the mix, and really doesn’t work at all.
     One thing that is unquestionably impressive is the performance of Eline Kuppens as Marie, striking a nice balance between strength and vulnerability. That’s in contrast to most horror movie heroines, who tend to lean too far in the latter direction.

 
Vital Statistics

LEFT BANK (LINKEROEVER)
Caviar

Director: Pieter Van Hees
Producer: Bert Hemelinck, Lato Maes, Fran van Passel
Screenplay: Pieter van Hees, Dimitri Karakatsanis
Cinematography: Nicolas Karakatsanis
Editing: Nico Leunen
Cast: Eline Kuppens, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom de Wispelaere, Sien Eggers, Frank Vercruyssen, Marilou Mermans, Robbie Cleiren, Ruth Bacquart
 

     

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