KASKcinema’s Bert Lesaffer selects 10 classic Belgian movies

In honour of their spring programme being in full swing, KASKcinema teacher and programmer Bert Lesaffer presents his favourite Belgian movies, from iconic slow-moving film by Chantal Ackerman to 21st century horror classic. Pride of place in his list is the detached techno-focus reality recounted in Pulsar, which KASKcinema is screening on April 18 2018.

Dagen Zonder Lief – Felix Van Groeningen (2007)

I saw this film for the first time when I was 25. Me and my friends were in awe of the atmosphere and the way empty days and full nights were depicted. When the DVD came out we placed all the copies in the front rows at Fnac. I rewatched it when I was 26, the day after I quit a shitty job. A friend of mine tried to cheer me up with drinks and weed during the day and then we watched Dagen Zonder Lief. All of a sudden, I felt lost.

Pulsar – Alex Stockman (2010)

Pulsar was almost completely set in one apartment. The central character (played by Matthias Schoenaerts, just before Rundskop-fame) is gradually being detached from people and reality by using daily devices as strange machines failing to connect us to others. This feeling of detachment is very present these days with all the information and data we have to process: the people passing us by, the efficiency at the workplace, the machines in our hands and in front of our eyes.

Manneken Pis – Frank Van Passel (1995)

Manneken Pis is a love story between two misfits – a dark romantic tale about Harry and Jeanne. This sweet, charming film epitomises the previous generation of Flemish films. Its unwillingness to be cool really works in its favour.

Calvaire – Fabrice Du Welz (2004)

The Ardennes is a beautiful place with cosy towns, lovely hills and nice forests. Except for the locals. Calvaire, like most horror films, taps into our collective fear of the unknown. The unknown here is embodied by the people you think you know quite well (your neighbours for example), until they show their true nature. The specific atmosphere and the local feel make of the Ardennes a wonderfully scary place.

Toute une nuit – Chantal Akerman (1982)

I saw this movie at around 2h in themorning, during the film marathon Day for Night, organised by Cinea at KASKcinema, and it felt like the only fitting time to watch it. Toute une nuit narrates several stories all happening during the same night. Here are some of my favourites scenes: two people with no destination, dancing in a deserted bar; a couple coming back home after a night out who impulsively decides to go on holiday instead of going to bed; and a man smoking a cigarette in bed whilst he waves from the window, saying goodbye to his fighting lover.

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles – Chantal Akerman (1975)

I’m not normally a fan of slow cinema, but that was before I saw Delphine Seyrig peeling potatoes for 10 minutes. An intriguing portrait of an obsessive-compulsive film, using tight frames to show a woman in a tight frame, until something surprises her.

Kid – Fien Troch (2012)

I like Belgian films that use the details of our surroundings instead of erasing them in order to create something universal. Fien Troch had made movies before which I liked, but I kept waiting on a film of hers that I would love. Then came Kid, reminding me of my endless summers in a small town. I remember being bored, wandering aimlessly, going to the store being the highlight of a hot August day.

Altiplano – Peter Brosen & Jessica Hope Woodworth (2009)

I must say I don’t remember much from this film, but I do remember I was the only person in the cinema during the screening, which leads to a heightened sense of appropriation: “I saw it alone, it’s my movie”. I was impressed with the large scale of this film, both in setting and in themes. What can an image mean, be it a photograph, a statue or a movie?

22 Mei – Koen Mortier (2010)

I was surprised with the lack of publicity this film got in 2010. What touched me the most was the structure: a poetic web centered around a bombing. There was just enough narrative weight to carry a film, and just enough freedom to let the characters take you to unexpected places – magical.

Verbrande Brug – Guido Henderickx (1975)

After I read an article in Knack about the industrial region of Verbrande Brug near Brussels and the film named after it, I discovered this gem. It has the feel of Fassbinder, rough and stylised at the same time, and the final sequence in the bar reminded me of Béla Tarr’s Damnation. But most importantly, if you want to hear Jan Decleir say “maan kloewte” more times than you could ever imagine – please watch Verbrande Brug.