Belgium, 2004, 94 minutes, Black and white.
Benoit Delepine, Gustave K/vern.
Directed by Benoit Delepine, Gustave K/vern.
Aaltra is an offbeat black comedy (filmed in black and white). It comes from Belgium – and might be called a Belgian wheelchair road movie. When an owner and his farmhand continually clash and each loses a hand, they take to wheelchairs determined to go to Finland to find the factory where the equipment and machinery were built. They encounter various people on the roads – a Flemish family taking them to the beach (and their having to be rescued from the beach), Ben, an old man with his own wheelchair. They become involved in a motorbike rally. They go to a German family to recharge the batteries of their wheelchairs and impose on the family, eating them out of house and home. They finally arrive at the factory to find that it is staffed by wheelchair paraplegics.
The film won the Fipresci award at the London Film Festival. An amusing, wry comedy.
1.The impact of the film? Black comedy? Sardonic comedy from continental Europe? From Belgium?
2.The wide-screen black and white photography, grainy? Small budget? Sense of realism? The range of countries and the journey to Finland?
3.The European tone of the film, the humour, the characters, the black humour – without relief? The sequences in France, Belgium and Namur and the racetrack, Germany and the highways, the family homes, the ferry, Finland and the countryside, winter, the factories? Musical score?
4.The introduction to Benoit and Gustave? Gustave and his work in the fields, the tractor, going to sleep, his being rebuked? His wife leaving him? His despair, the attempted suicide? The introduction to Benoit, on the train, the commuter, the company, the demands made on him, expectations, his being sacked? His suspicions about his wife? In the spare room, the affair? His despair, attempted suicide? The irony of the two of them clashing on the road, the car and the tractor, the commuter being in a hurry, being prevented from getting to his destination by the tractor?
5.The antagonism of the two as they find themselves in hospital, the injuries, the visits? Their being released? The fighting, the tip-up trailer, their being caught in it? The discharge from hospital, the wheelchairs? Paralysed?
6.Their being of the station, waiting for the train, their money being stolen?
7.A wheelchair road movie? Hitchhiking on the roads, the motorcycle race in Namur, Ben and his delight in the racing? The decision to go to Finland, find the manufacturer of the trailer and sue them? This motivation, vengeance?
8.The Flemish family, taking them to the beach, their friendliness, their drinking, sitting of the seashore, the tide coming in, their having to be rescued?
9.Ben, the old man with the motorised wheelchair, his own manual wheelchair, no compunction in taking it?
10.The motorbike rally, Ben and his liking the bike, persuading the English owner to let him ride for three minutes? His going off, Gustave and the owner having to pursue them through the night, finding him crashed, the reaction of the owner?
11.Needing electricity, the chair and its need for recharging, the German family, their courtesy, the meal, their continued eating, the demands, ringing the bell during the night? The family getting rid of them?
12.The further hitchhiking, the ferry to Finland? The journey through Finland, the town? The demands in the factory, the compensation request? The manager, the explanation of the name of the firm? His sending them across town?
13.The arrival at Aaltra? Imitating the trailers and tractors? Staffed by wheelchair paraplegics? The discussion with the manager? His ironic comment about their familiarity with his work? Wanting to sue – but his offering them jobs instead?
14.The overall effect of this kind of austere black comedy, without relief, unsympathetic characters, disliking each other? Comments on human nature?