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Overall Rating

Awesome: 5.88%
Worth A Look: 5.88%
Just Average76.47%
Pretty Crappy: 11.76%
Sucks: 0%

2 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Ordeal, The (Calvaire)
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by Kevin Thomas

"You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll avoid Belgium..."
3 stars

Very few movies are as epileptic in tone as The Ordeal. It switches from self-parody to surreal comedy to gritty horror without breaking a sweat. It certainly ensures that you never know what is around the next corner, but it also makes it difficult to get truly absorbed in the film.

‘The Ordeal’ is an unfortunate translation of the title, as it’s proper Belgian title is ‘Calvaire’ which has many religious connotations attached to it. The Calvaire is the journey that anybody being crucified must take when carrying their cross to the site of crucifixion. Yes, it’s an ordeal, but it’s a shame that no English translation can bring with it the ominous religious predictions of the movie’s events.

The movie tells the story of Marc; a cabaret singer who is loved passionately by his ageing audience. He sets off to drive across Belgium to get to a Christmas gala booking, but breaks down on the way. A...slightly odd young man out looking for his dog soon finds him. The empty-eyed stranger then proceeds to guide him to a nearby inn owned by the amiable Mr Barthel (who vehemently warns him not to go down to the village as ‘they’re not like us down there’…). However, as Barthel becomes increasingly unhinged and the town mechanic seems less likely to arrive, Marc begins to get less worried about making it to the gala, and more concerned with making it out at all.

Playing like a weird mix of Psycho, Deliverance and a thousand quirky comedies (not least the surreal British comedy ‘The League of Gentlemen’) the laughs (whether intentional or not, they’re definitely there) come almost as fast as the scares. Then, when the movie starts wrapping up, a long (easily 15 minutes) and extremely disturbing climax unfolds.

The odd mix of tone and genre can make it difficult to get truly absorbed in the action. The attempts to build up any kind of foreboding atmosphere are undone by lengthy sequences that are so surreal that and fear is replaced by bemused confusion. Then, sadly, it expects you to get straight back into the terrified state it needs you to be in at the drop of a hat. No matter how fast it changes tone on screen, it takes longer for the audience to get back into a scared mindset, so jumping from Prom of the Living Dead to graphic male rape simply means that both scenes lose their impact.

When it’s trying to be surreally entertaining it’s very good, and when it’s trying to be a gritty horror it’s almost as effective. However you can’t help but wonder how much more effective both parts would have been if the tone was carried throughout the movie. The awkward changes in tone simply lessen the impact of what could have been a cult classic.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10329&reviewer=368
originally posted: 11/02/04 10:05:58
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Leeds Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Leeds Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/14/07 rocky Twisted flick..that piano scene with the locals is one of the strangest scenes ever 4 stars
1/03/07 Elspeth Richardson disappointing plot. great cinematography. hilarious black humour at times. 3 stars
10/15/06 William Goss The Ordeal is right. Tedious, then shrill and pointless. 2 stars
9/24/06 Tom Gowling Interminable, disappointing, derivative 2 stars
12/10/04 Nadia Dresti Unclassable though thrilling movie; excellent directing debut! Du Welz : a name to remember 5 stars
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  DVD: 03-Oct-2006



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