Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
J.A.A. Purves

The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)

Recommended Posts

Hollywood Reporter:

Belgium has nominated Felix van Groeningen's romantic drama The Broken Circle Breakdown as its candidate for best foreign language film for the 2014 Oscars. The relationship drama is the story of two bluegrass music enthusiasts -- she a religious realist, he a romantic atheist -- whose faith, in God and each other, is put to the test when their daughter becomes terminally ill ... Commercially, it has been a sleeper success, grossing more than $5 million across the Benelux territories, France and Germany alone ...

 

eFilmCritic:

... The screenplay tying all of this together is not perfect, although that one bit of telling instead off showing stands out compared to how expertly everything else we learn about Didier & Elise has been simply laid out indicates how great the rest is. A device that seems to fit a play better than a film (the rest of the band becoming a chorus and singing during solemn moments) is odd but mostly works. Mostly, Van Groeningen's script (with Carl Joos) and direction is a model of economy that doesn't sacrifice detail and impressive emotional balance: As much as the film will juxtapose younger Elise & Didier with the older versions to show how their experiences have changed them, the coiled timeline does a perfect job of showing how good and bad memories live side by side. The emergence of one of the more fair-minded conflicts between belief and atheism is also kind of remarkable - I don't think I've ever seen a film crush a non-believer's faith quite like this one does.

 

The Playlist:

... The soundtrack has apparently been a bestseller in Belgium where the film has already had a very successful run, and it’s not hard to see why. The original bluegrass songs, composed by Bjorn Eriksson, are by turns haunting and jaunty, and again, Van Groeningen uses them to sometimes complementary and sometimes contrasting effect. But whether it’s a ballad of loss and sadness or a more honky-tonk tongue-in-cheek barnstomper, the two actors, whose singing voices are terrifically well suited to the material, find a harmony that adds further layers to our understanding of their relationship. Really, we fall in love with them a bit ...

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I watched this late last night into this morning -- my third movie of the night -- and wish I'd come to this thread first for some indication of what's in the film. Though not 100% focused on it at the time of night I was watching it, I found the film surprisingly religious. The songs, sure, but also the characters. Trouble is, that aspect of the film kind of slipped past me for an indeterminate amount of time. I'm not sure if I wasn't paying close attention, or if the faith aspect is more implicit than explicit in the first half of the film. It becomes harder to avoid as the film draws to its conclusion. (Again, it may very well be quite explicit earlier in the film; I just wasn't focused on the film the way I should've been at that point.)

 

I went into the movie thinking I'd like the music, if nothing else. I ended the movie unsure what I thought of the music (not quite the "bluegrass" style/sound I was expecting, or prefer) but impressed that the plot went to some places that filmed stories about life-threatening illness tend to sidestep.

 

As I write this, I've been watching Dallas Buyers Club, put off by the story's failure to grapple with a spiritual dimension. (And just as I type that, a scene of prayer! Things are looking up.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw this at the St. Louis Film Festival.  I thought this film was really well done.  It handles sensitive material and a non-linear timeline in a compassionate, sure-handed fashion.  I thought the religious conflict was handled well, without the biases that an American film would surely put in there (making the religious person a Scripture-quoting pietist, or the atheist arrogant and unlikeable).  The film shows two people who came to love to each other, and how their relationship is tested.

 
I thought the music was effective in providing an emotional relief from the turmoil of what the child was going through, but also in showing how the band functioned as an extended family, a support network.   
  

Edited by Crow

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's no part of this movie I didn't like, but there is way too much story here.The characters, particularly Elise, are interesting. I wish the film had explored them more rather than establishing just enough difference to make that the foundation of conflict. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When a film begins by telling you it's 2006, and then it flashes back to "seven years ago", you just *know* it's going to find some way to make a 9/11 reference. But what really surprised me was that this film was primarily agitated not by the "war on terror", but by a policy of Bush's that actually *pre-dates* the 9/11 attacks. The thing is, the way the film is edited, you'd think Bush's policy on embyronic stem-cell research (which was announced in August 2001, over a month before the attacks) had been announced years *after* the attacks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No comments on this since the film was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar? I've yet to watch it again -- am holding out for Sarah to watch it with me -- but I was reminded of the film by this article on how romance at the movies, if not rom-coms, was alive and well in 2013.

 

A big reason rom-coms have failed is because they’ve run out of stories to propel them. Perhaps the solution resides in truth and representation: different romantic stories incorporating situations and demographic collisions that convey the range and complexities of romance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Saw this today. This weekend it played at 5 Laemmle venues one show at 11 am Sat and Sun. I think they're giving Oscar voters a shot at seeing in in theaters.

 

It's very strong. The bluegrass songs fit it so well. It is a difficult movie to absorb. The grief and pain are so real.  Having seen all but the Cambodian film, I'd rate this one top among Oscar nominees.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd like to see it, but I understand it's about a banjo player who has a girlfriend. I can't decide if that's magical realism or surrealism. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I caught this on Vudu last night.

 

At the end it occurred to me that I've never really considered song lyrics as really dialoguing with the story of a film before (outside of musicials).  Sure, the creators of a film will use the lyrics of a song sometimes where it is appropriate to a theme.  And sure, I've even seen films (like Mangold's Walk the Line) about musicians where the song lyrics were about what was happening the life of the lyric writer.  But I'm not sure if I've seen a film where the story or conversation in the film continues in the actual song lyrics of the music during the film.  Here, the words to the songs are so immediately on point that they continue or expound upon what is happening in the story.  Actual questions between the characters are asked in their singing of these songs and actual answers are given.

 

Hmmm ... that still doesn't seem to explain exactly what I meant.  I'll try to put it this way, Inside Llewyn Davis does not have songs that are random and of no application to the story.  In the film, often when a character chooses to play or sing a song is important to the story.  If you cut all the music out of Inside Llewyn Davis, it would ruin the film.  But, you would still be able to follow the Coen brothers' script.  In The Broken Circle Breakdown, by contrast, if you cut out the songs, it would be like cutting out half of the script.  When the characters sing, their words (even in the song during the end credits) are as important, if not more important, to answering or continuing what they say when they are not singing.  Yet, unlike a musical, it is still clear that they are singing songs.  And, at least with Didier, it is clear that he does not always believe all the words to the songs he is choosing to sing.

 

That still doesn't make sense as much as I'd like it to, but I can't think at the moment how to describe it better.

 

As far as this being a film about faith, while it offers just a little resolution, it very very strongly explores the difference between believing and desiring to believe.  What I find most fascinating about how they explore the topic is that they show clearly that believing and wanting to believe are not the same thing.  And yet, if belief is a choice, then the difference between the two can, perhaps even inevitably, dissolve.

 

Also, I haven't seen many reviewers warning people about this, but this is a heartbreaker of a film.  Out of some of the most emotionally manipulative films I've both seen and enjoyed from last year (Saving Mr. Banks, The Book Thief or even, best of all, Short Term 12), I managed not to go beyond misty eyed.  But this film never felt emotionally manipulative.  The subject matter is simply the subject matter and it is dealt with in a very honest, intelligent, passionate and straightforward way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Early on, I was expecting Inside Llewyn Davis: Good Version, but it ended up closer to Blue Valentine: Musical Version.

 

 

Like Blue Valentine, Broken Circle uses a fragmented narrative structure, jumping back and forth in Elise and Didier's relationship, often showing the effects before a cause is revealed. But where I thought Blue Valentine wallowed in the pain of its characters, Broken Circle uses its pain as an avenue to engage some big questions of life and faith. The dialogue isn't always the most subtle (one sequence is lifted directly from Christopher Hitchens), but it never felt artificial. I  believed these characters would act and react in the ways they do in the movie.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I finally saw this last night.  This is indeed wrenching stuff; my normally stoic ladyfriend was in tears at certain points.  I liked very much, too, that the belief vs. atheism dichotomy felt very unforced and subtle here, unlike a number of other films of late.  Is it just me, or do Northern Europeans seem to do spirituality with a much lighter touch than U.S. filmmakers; I'm thinking here of Erik Poppe's Christian allegories as well.  And it seems like the most authentic family dramas are coming from that neck of the woods, too.  Must be something in the water. 

 

Tyler, I'd say Didier's rant is much closer to Dawkins than Hitchens, in particular the former's much quoted opening paragraph of the second chapter of The God Delusion.

 

And having seen the film, Jeremy, I know exactly what you mean about the integral part the music's lyrics played in the unfolding of the story.  The scene with the Townes van Zandt song seguing into Didier's pained monologue was far and away the most powerful and wrecking scene of this film for me.  And this musical role even extended to the closing credits; I'm sure the filmmakers knew exactly what they were doing in playing 'Where the Soul of a Man Never Dies' at the very end.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The scene with the Townes van Zandt song seguing into Didier's pained monologue was far and away the most powerful and wrecking scene of this film for me.

Oh man, you're right. I had forgotten about that. Glad you could see it, Andrew.

This reminds me that I still need to acquire the soundtrack for this one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...