Violet | Berlin Film Festival 2014
Violet is the debut feature of Belgian director Bas Devos, a Netherlands and Belgium co-production, having its world premiere at the Berlinale Generation section. It tells a story of a group of teenage BMX riders who are confronted with a sudden and brutal loss of their crewmate Jonas (Brent Minne), getting stabbed at an empty local shopping mall. The main character, 15-year-old Jesse (Cesar De Sutter) is the only witness of the accident. Overwhelmed by this experience, the introvert boy remains lonely in his grief, unable to explain his emotions to his friends or parents.
The tragedy happens in an unusually calm way, displayed for us through the eye of indifferently cold CCTV camera. Jesse sees the conflict slowly unfolding right before his eyes, but is not able to take any action but watch. The rest of the movie is an aftermath of how his friend’s death affects his quiet tender personality. Showing us only the tip of the iceberg, only the very surface of faces, streets and BMX parks, Violet visually explains the otherwise unexplainable: the mourning process of a teenager.
The film’s slow tempo and laconic storytelling is reminiscent of recent works by Theodoros Angelopoulos and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The long takes of the teenagers’ environment seem uneventful only at first sight – they subtly reveal the atmosphere and laws of the world the kids live in, in a way that no dialogue could express. Under the surface of warm summer days filled with freedom and comfort, there is an implicit knowledge that for Jesse, the world will never feel the same. The disjunction between an on going routine, where friends still ride their bikes having the time of their lives and watch funny TV shows cuddled in their blankets late at night, and an ineffable shadow of destruction that will probably take years to pass, is the most interesting aspect of Violet. There is no universal guide to mourning and, even after the biggest personal catastrophes, life does go on.
Violet has a rather contemplative, calm and soothing mood to it. The cinematography is exceptional – vivid colours, shallow depth of field and 4:3 ratio calls to mind Post Tenebras Lux by Carlos Reygadas and Faust by Alexander Sokurov. It is a great picture to comfortably sink into, and remember the way we experience world as teens.
To read our interview director Bas Devos, Cesar de Sutter who plays Jesse, and Brent Minne, one of the BMX riders in the film, visit here.
Read more reviews from Berlin Film Festival here.
For further information about the festival, visit the official website here.