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Close (2022)

Directed by:
Lukas Dhont

COUNTRY
Belgium/Netherlands/France

Genre
Drama

NORWEGIAN TITLE
Close

RUNNING TIME
104 minutes

Produced by:
Dirk Impens
Michiel Dhont

Written by:
Lukas Dhont
Angelo Tijssens


Cast includes:

CHARACTER ACTOR/ACTRESS RATING

Léo

Eden Dambrine

Rémi

Gustav De Waele ½

Sophie

Émilie Dequenne

Nathalie

Léa Drucker
Peter Kevin Janssens -
Yves Marc Weiss -
Charlie Igor van Dessel -
Baptiste Léon Bataille -

 

Review

Lukas Dhont is the name of one of Europe's most promising filmmakers, a director whose aesthetic goes right back to European classicists filmmakers such as Erik Rohmer. In Dhont's second feature, entitled Close, almost every strand of narrative is told through more or less disjointed scenes and segments, and every emotion and character development is implicit, often undercommunicated. The story is about two young friends from the Belgian countryside, Léo and Rémi, whose tightknit bond reaches a zenith the summer before they start secondary school. With new classes forming and hormones flowing, their special relationship is tested by means of peer pressure, conventions, and Léo's need for redefining himself and widening his horizons. This forces their pure, undefined love towards a definition that none of them have the maturity to outline.

Dhont had already made a name for himself with Girl in 2018, and his follow-up is equally hard-hitting, albeit arguably less obviously so. In Close, nothing is told or tackled head-on, instead we the audience is left with the task of deciphering and defining every single development. This is a form of moviemaking that had seemingly gone out of fashion in the post-streaming era, but which Dhont revitalizes emphatically here. His camerawork and patience with his actors is such that you become one with the characters. When his camera lingers on young Eden Dambrine as Léo, you're invited to a fusion between viewer and character; you become this young man and live out his predicament. If there ever was pure filmmaking, this is it. Which is why you also accept the small droplets of emotional manipulation that inevitably infuse the final part of the film.

Dhont's work is visually and narratively remarkable. But his most impressive feat with Close is how he has extracted masterclass performances out of his two inexperienced lead actors. The first third of the picture has a timelessness to it which is reminiscent of the Nouvelle Vague. And after the film's turning point, Eden Dambrine's expressive but understated face carries the story almost in a Brandoesque manner. His Léo is one of the best child performances in decades, and certainly on this side of the millennium, making Close a coming-of-age film for the ages.

Copyright © 04.01.2023 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang

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