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Left Bank (2008)
Director: Pieter Van Hees

review by Alexandra Bunning

When Marie (Eline Kuppens), a rather withdrawn young runner, falls ill and is told she must withdraw from an important European competition, she distracts herself with Bobby (Matthias Shoenaerts), an archer who seems head-over-heels for her. Finding the concept of staying at home with her eccentric, hippy mother unendurable, she plunges headlong into a relationship with Bobby, and moves into his apartment on the Left Bank (of the river Scheldt, in Antwerp - not the Left Bank of Paris).

At first, life with Bobby in Left Bank seems idyllic, but Marie soon discovers that the previous tenant of Bobby's apartment had disappeared under unusual circumstances. Marie's already fragile health seems to deteriorate daily, and - finding herself alone for long hours every day - she turns to the mystery of the previous tenant to occupy her time. In the course of this research, Marie is joined by the tenant's boyfriend, Dirk (Tom De Wispelaere). Before long, Marie and Dirk discover that they may have got in over their heads, and Bobby's subsequent strange behaviour seems to be something more than mere jealousy.

Throughout, the film's leeched colouring and generally bleak, sparse sets give the audience an overall sense of discomfort. This is further amplified by Marie's own mounting tension as her surroundings take on an increasingly malevolent and alien character as she delves into the mystery of the tenant's disappearance. This sense of unease is furthered by the unusual, and at times downright horrifying, symptoms of Marie's apparent sickness. The music is sparse and haunting, and really supports the storyline as the tension is ratcheted up notch after notch.

It's clear however that the writers and director were trying for a storyline in the tradition of The Wicker Man or Rosemary's Baby, and I would have to say it suffers for the comparison. The references to folklore and the history of the Left Bank take rather a backseat in this film, and this is something I would have liked to see more of. Ostensible mention is made of the Ouroboros worn around Bobby's neck, and this fits neatly into the ending of the film and its folkloric background, but there seems to be a lot more about Bobby's past, and that of the area, that although hinted at, are simply not explored.

I admit to being a little bit sceptical of Left Bank (aka: Linkeroever), expecting it to be another low-budget attempt at horror that misses the mark entirely, but I was very pleasantly surprised by this moody and suspense-filled horror. It wouldn't win any awards for originality, but if you're sick of splatter movies that are empty of story lines, and you don't mind some nudity (a few full-on sex scenes going on here), then I'd definitely give this a try.

Left Bank



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