King of the Belgians: a film which goes over the top

Article published on Sept. 12, 2016
Article published on Sept. 12, 2016

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Presented in the "Orizzonti" section, Brosens and Woodworth's film is a surprising saga, delved into the absurd of modernity

One of the most interesting proposals of the Venie Film Festival isn't competing for the Golden Lion. Its name is King of the Belgians, it is part of the "Orizzonti" section and is really entertaining.

The Belgian king Nicolas III is in Instanbul because of a diplomatic meeting, but a solar storm cuts off the air spaces and the phone lines. At the same time Wallonia declares the indipendence and the the king decides to return to his country despite Turkish security's claims. This is just the beginning of a Odyssey during which Nicolas III, his councilman, his assistent, the publicist and a videomaker go through incredible adventures and are always called to play new roles. It would be a pity to reveal even just another detail of this amazing saga, where the limit between reality and absurd is always a fragile one.

King of Belgians succeeds in preserving the tone and the pragmatism of a simple plot by adding extraordinary events and improbable coincidences. However, the good attitude of the Belgian king is helpful too: now the can finally be as curios as a normal person. After a life made up of fake smiles and of discourses strictly controlled by at least two persons and the interior minister, Nicolas III can finally explore the world, overcoming anything life puts him in front of.

Starting from here, if you want, you can reflect on the weight of the highest offices, especially of the European monarchies, which usally are limited to the presence of a king and a queen. This kind of reflection on the man behind the mask is nothing new at all and today it covers the figure of the pope too with the film " Habemus Papa". However, here the fous is not on the conflict which the office creates in the man. On the contrary, here this conflic is used as fuel for a range of incredible events. To summarize, this plot is delved in modernity and it goes well beyond the politically correctness.

All the merit should go to the subtle irony, and self-mockery, of Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth, who wrote, directed and produced the film. The are both from Belgium, they both started their careeres making documentaries and they produced together Altiplano in 2009 and Khadak in 2006. Their work must be praised, so much that the self-mockery can't be found just in synopsis or in some sketch about Belgian people: King of the Belgians is a mockumentary, a fake documentary. The one who is the author at the beginning becomes in turn the narrator, a character just like the others and again a narrator, following a narrative structure wjich is extremely free.

From several points of view (plot, tone, narration), King of the Belgians is alarger than life surprise. It always remains in limbo made up of subtle irony without dwindling to an inappropriate level or trying to reach something too ambituos. To summarise, this films boasts a quality which is really rare in the modern cinema: a fresh look. It surely deserves to be watched.