La Raison du plus faible
Lucas Belvaux :: France, Belgium :: 2005 :: 1h56
Labourers drama set in the depressing Liege, where the poverty induces the back-against-the-wall sentiment and the characters see no other alternative but to tackle it at the choking point: crime might not pay, but alternative of labour is scarce, dehumanising and near futile. A hold-up plan is made, and the men pass the threshold of no-return. The have-not‘s will steal from the have‘s in a naive entrepreneurial solution.
A slow social drama aimed at reminding us that although Belgium tops many a statistical chart in the economic press as one of the richest countries on earth, it is none the less rooted in the Dickens poverty era. A theme so endlessly addressed, it would not surprise me if by now many believed Belgium to be the last European country still struggling with the ugly beginnings of the industrial revolution. Compare this image with Daens (Stijn Coninx, Belgium, 1993) set in 1890 and you can content yourself that child labour has been abolished, but the country did not get much further than that. Life is ugly, crude, violent and short.
In cinema, the national image is endlessly tarnished by mostly commentaries from expatriated Belgian film makers. Even in a social thriller, it is possible to show the nation and its people from a more positive angle. It is not an image of hopelessness, like a rich versus poor Roman stand-off, which brings about change. A little recognition for the achievements of the nation would be more than welcome, as would the showing of the considerably more complex -and thankfully more joyful- social fabric. Points may be granted here for character analysis and development, but the overall pessimism and negativity do more harm than good. Perhaps Mr Belvaux should spend a little less time in flashy Paris and a little more in his native Belgium to balance out the score.