By Ohad Amram
2013 has proven to be a highlight year in Independent cinema. Adding to the ongoing list of Indies sweeping awards this year is the beautiful Belgian gem, “The Broken Circle Breakdown.” The fourth feature film of director Felix Van Groeningen has rightfully been selected as the Belgian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s upcoming Academy Awards.
“The Broken Circle Breakdown” delves into human emotion and the grim realities of death and lost love. It isn’t your cliché love story by any means. It chronicles the relationship of Didier, a Banjo player and singer for a Bluegrass band, and Elise, a tattoo artist turned Bluegrass singer who accompanies Didier to lead the band.
Groeningen intercuts scenes depicting the couple when they first meet and then seven years down the line as they deal with their daughter’s later stages of cancer. The sympathy we feel for these characters grows immensely due to the musical accompaniment, which compliments the characters actions beautifully.
Though the film resembles other love stories that rely on intercutting to demonstrate a time lapse, “The Broken Circle Breakdown” concisely executes the pacing style in a superior way. The most recent American film that maintains an intriguing storyline in this way is Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine.” In fact “The Broken Circle Breakdown” recounts nearly the same love story, it poses the question of what it means to pursue intimate relationships despite enduring the most incomprehensible misfortunes.
The spiritual dynamic that the script takes when both parents become further engrossed in their opposing viewpoints surrounding religion and the afterlife is interesting. This dilemma is brought on by the death of their seven-year-old cancer stricken daughter.
Didier proclaims that there is no higher power but rather science is the sole explanation for existence. Elise, meanwhile, cannot overcome the death of her daughter and becomes increasingly more spiritual as the film moves on. These differences, coupled with the already gaping void between the two become far too overwhelming to patch.
Perhaps, among the most impressive of these performances given by both Baetens and Heldenbergh, is how harmonic and melancholy their English singing voices are. Their ability to mimic American bluegrass performers and sound exactly like the genre is simply unbelievable.
“The Broken Circle Breakdown,” is a must-see love story that incorporates musical performances to accent pensive yet explosive storytelling. In watching these artists perform with vigor and passion through times of anguish and suffering, one thing is to be learned; the show must go on.