TIFF 2016 Review: “Le Ciel Flamand” (2016) ★★★★★


How many movies out there can actually terrify you with the realism of its storyline? As you watch Peter Monsaert`s LE CIEL FLAMAND, you will wish that you could go back in time, back far enough before the story took place to change the course of history and preserve the innocence of a young one.

The film focuses on the lives of three generations of women: Monique, Sylvie, and her six-year-old daughter, Elina. Monique and Sylvie run a “family business” of a brothel, where both of them occasionally satisfy men’s needs.  Elina, however, is not aware of her mom’s job. One day when the little girl asks what her job is all about, Sylvie finds it difficult to answer, responding with: “If someone needs a hug, they come to me”. This concept fascinates her so much that she, when given the first opportunity, volunteers her services with devastating consequences.

The atmosphere of the film is brutally honest. You see the dialogue between Monique and Sylvie discussing what kind of service their next client demands. Both of them look so comfortable talking about their job, as if it is something very innocent. This is when you, as a viewer will be puzzled, as to why a mother would allow her own daughter to be involved in the “body-selling-business”. Sylvie, however, is not like her mother, and does her best to distance her little girl from the world she is subjected to.

On her sixth birthday, Elina spends her time as usual in her mom’s car, waiting for Sylvie to finish her shift. When she hears an argument outside of the bar, her curiosity gets the better of her, and what happens next will haunt both the viewer and characters for life. Young Elina, trying to find her mother, runs into a man with a quiet and gentle voice that blinds her little mind.  Trying to console him with a hug, moments later she finds herself the victim of sexual abuse.

From that moment on, everything in the three women`s lives turn upside down. Each of them try to cope with the tragedy the best way they can. Monique offers to give her daughter some space and asks for time off. Sylvie tries to catch the man who raped her daughter by setting up a video camera in the brothel. One scene will certainly bring tears to your eyes – where the mother watches the video of Elina being interviewed by the police officer who asks her to describe in pictures what the man did to her. Just watching it is enough to make you want to drop to your knees.

Peter Monsaert’s s LE CIEL FLAMAND is a devastatingly powerful drama that not everyone can watch to its conclusion. It took me three times to finish it in its entirety. However, if you manage it, you will be rewarded. You may ask – what should we take away from this film, where a little girl’s only crime was to make people happy around her?  We must preserve our inherent childhood tendency to heal others, at all costs.

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