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Encounters of the Belgian kind: Eldorado

img  Claudia Lindner

One gets to know Yvan, a middle-aged failed existence who – however erraticly - earns his life by overhauling older American cars and selling them. After another day's work, Yvan returns home and acknowledges that his house was burgled. The burglar is still in the house and hides – once surrounded – under Yvan's bed. Elie, as he calls himself, is even a greater loser than Yvan. The former Junkie actually is completely broke, rundown and such a pitiful appearance that Yvan for now gives him a lift in his car instead of delivering him up to the police. When he later passes the spot where he had left the guy, he 's still standing there and Yvan –  as kind-hearted as chunky built by nature – agrees to drive him back to his parents. Those live close to the French border and though, considering the size of Belgium, this can't be too far away, the two guys' voyage nevertheless turns out to be a roadmovie. And a rather weird one. The dreary landscape under a constantly gray sky and the grim places both men end up at, create a unique atmosphere of a resigned come-what-may-mood in which the story of the ill-assorted couple can develop.

At first, one may have the impression that an approach or even communication  between the two seems to be impossible because they are too different. On the one hand the stocky, bear-like and grumpy loner Yvan, played by  Bouli Lanners, who is also writer and director of the movie, on the other hand the scrawny, confused and impenitent late-adolescent Elie, played by Fabrice Adde.

Fuel stops inlcuding attempts to get the tired and uncommunicative ex-junkie to talk or eat, a technical problem and the encounter with a very strange and ghoulish car collector, a nightly accident with a following overnight stay in the probably most scrapped caravan of the Benelux countries as well as the subsequent breakdown service by two even stranger old men, one of whom a nudist in every situation – these are only some of the incidents Yvan and Elie experience on their trip. It would be overstated to say that these adventures would bind them togehter, actually both react in their own way: Elie with a kind of passive-whiney helplessness and Yvan with resigned kindheartedness. But they get used to each other and step-by-step a connection develops between the two. Everything the two men experience, every landscape they pass by and every scene of their odd adventures has the air of tristesse, loneliness and despair, and this feeling is transported through the atmosphere of the film to the audience without any need to enhance it with pathos and usual clichés.

The soundtrack created by Renaud Mayeur also reflects this with its unobtrusive and subtle tunes which match amazingly the atmosphere of the landscapes and scenes of the film. It includes contributions and songs by An Pierlé, Koen Gisen, Jesse Sykes, Stefan Liberski or the Milkshakes.

When they finally arrive at Elie's parents', some unexpected feelings are disguised, like with a father-son-clash and a lonely mother. But Bouli Lanners' film remains true to itself and comes up with tragicomical turns, for example when Yvan learns from the mother that Elie's real name is Didier. As in the whole film, these encounters don't need many words to develop, and neither do the touching moments with simple and honest emotions of the protagonists which from time to time just happen in the film and give it human warmness and depth.

If one expects dramatic complexities, tension and beautiful people, this is clearly the wrong film. „Eldorado“ takes one into a bleak, even depressing world full of odd, broken or confused people. And in the end the scenery still is dull and grim, because director Lanners doesn't offer his audience a happy ending, there is no turn to the better, nothing, which would really break the desolation. But with a wry sense of humour he gets something comical out of the bleakness and created a quiet, laconical and consistent film.


Original title: Eldorado

Belgium/France, 2008, 81'

Director: Bouli Lanners

Cast: Bouli Lanners, Fabrice Adde, Philippe Nahon, Francoise Chichery, Didier Toupy

Music: Renaud Mayeur

Production: Jacques-Henri Bronckart/Versus Production, Jerome Vidal/

                 Lazennec &  Associes

Distribution: Films Distribution, Kool Filmdistribution

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