The Broken Circle Breakdown has just been selected as Belgium’s official selection for the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film. Felix Van Groeningen directed and co-wrote this drama that stars Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh. The foreign film has already garnered various international accolades including the Panorama Audience Award at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival in addition to the Best
Actress in a Narrative Feature and Best Screenplay for a Narrative Feature at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. The film focuses on the relationship between tattoo artist Elise (Veerle Baetens, The White Queen) and bluegrass musician Didier (Johan Heldenbergh). Elise and Didier connect through their mutual interest for American music and culture, and they unexpectedly fall in loveat first sight. Their great love affair is challenged when their daughter suddenly becomes ill withterminal cancer.
There are numerous American references in the film that make this Belgium film more relatable to audiences in the United States. Will the Circle be Unbroken and The Lion Sleeps Tonight are two of the American songs that are featured in the movie and former President Bush is depicted twice on the television screen: once forhis post-9/11 speech and the other for his statement on vetoing stem-cell research. In addition, all of the songs are sung in English. Jyliann Davis, a sophomore at the University, explained, “The movie seems very American for a foreign film because of the bluegrass music and the singing in English. We can definitely relate to the music sung throughout in addition to relating to the universal situations the main characters are in.” Themes of death, the American dream and religion re seen throughout this film. Didier gives a very powerful speech that speaks out against religion saying, “The world is obsessed with religion.” Didier continue,“God is the most evil person in literature,” describing him as a killer and a homophobe. No matter what beliefs someone may have, this particular scene in themovie has the power to make someone reevaluate their views, especially when audiences see the tragic experiences this family went through.
Veerle Baetens, with the stunning eyes of Julia Roberts and the strong presence of Hilary Swank, stars as the female lead Elise. She gives a gut-wrenching performance as a mother who just lost her daughter to cancer. She was recognized for her acting accomplishment at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, where she was awarded Best Actress in a Narrative Feature. The jurors at the Tribeca Film Festival stated, “We’ve selected a woman who shows herself to be a totally committed and fiercely versatile actress. Veerle Baetens’ character goes from a sunny free spirit to grieving wife and mother, and no matter where we are in the course of that journey, this actress shows us the light burning inside her character, one that both sustains and destroys. She is the heart and soul of the movie, and her performance is nothing short of a tour de force.”
Baetens and Heldenbergh both give great performances and share great chemistry onscreen. They portray characters that drastically change throughout the film afterthe unexpected happens, twice. The young actress, Nell Cattrysse, plays the role of their daughter Maybelle. Her character goes through all the steps of a cancer patient, and through this role, Cattrysse is a promising newcomer to the film industry. Cattrysse can be seen in another film with Baetens this upcoming month c lled Het Vonnis. Lead actor Heldenbergh co-wrote the successful play that The Broken Circle Breakdown is actually based on. Director Felix Van Groeningen and Carl Joos then adapted the play for the screen.
Groeningen’s directing has earned him a spot in Variety’s “10 European Directors to Watch.” This is only his fourth feature, and he uses unorthodox camera shots throughout the film to show the passing of time. Additionally, he is able to simultaneously alternate between past and present without confusing an audience’s perception of time.
Bluegrass music is a vital component to this film. The bluegrass songs and the film’s score were composed by Bjorn Eriksson. Baetens and Heldenbergh do their own singing in the film, truly giving it an authentic feel. The soundtrack has been number one on the soundtrack charts in territories where it’s already been released and in Belgium, it has become the best- selling soundtrack of all time. The film’s two lead actors are also part of the Broken Circle Breakdown Bluegrass Band, and they have an upcoming tour in Europe that is already sold out through 2014.
Savannah McCauley, a sophomore at the University, said, “I am not a huge bluegrass fan, but I feel that it is necessary to the storyline and helps to intertwine the two main characters. The film looks really good because of the bluegrass music, the contrasting characters and the unique cinematography. It is on my list of movies to see.” Yahoo movies described the movie in a review as, “A brilliant heartbreaker… A cross between Walk the Line and Blue Valentine.”
The Broken Circle Breakdown has been picked up by Tribeca Film following its run at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. The movie is scheduled to be released on November 1st Sunshine Cinema in New York, which will then be followed by a national release.