Filmmaker Fabrice du Welz is back with another fish-out-of-water tale as this time he takes a married couple into the depths of the Thai underworld that’s cold, dark and desolate.
Still not having accepted the loss of their son in a tsunami disaster, Janet and Paul Behlmer are back in Bangkok. Hanging on to the fact that his body has never been discovered, Janet desperately clings to the idea that pirates might have kidnapped their kid in the confusion that followed the catastrophe. Looking for someone to guide them in the Thai underworld, they bribe their way to a mysterious Mr. Gao, who takes them to Ranong, where a mercenary supplies them with a boat and crew to explore the pirate-infested shores of Burma. Slowly, they will lose themselves into a strange child-infested jungle and to their inner demons.
What’s unique about Welz’s journey is that it’s transgressive and ultimately ends up in a place many viewers won’t be comfortable with. It’s a bold move that took me a good two nights to digest, and thus appreciate. Ultimately, the chaos ensues immediately, with everything else thinning out through the rest of the film. Eventually, the duo are by themselves, in a place no human could even know exists.
What’s so incredibly interesting about VINYAN is that our protagonists enter the ghost world (so to speak), as opposed to the ghosts entering our world. They make the conscious decision to go into a place they don’t know, nor understand, with full knowledge of the inherent risks.
While VINYAN is incredibly slow, it’s never boring. Welz’s directing has improved drastically from his work on CALVAIRE as he’s moved from a small location to one with infinite possibilities. He takes the audience on a journey to a world he created, yet might still exist. But none of this would be possible without the astounding cinematography by Benoît Debie (Irreversible) who creates a colorful, yet bleak Thai world.
While the film is sure to disappoint most horror fans, filmmaking connoisseurs will find solace in a piece of art that is left open to various interpretations. VINYAN is true to Welz’s vision and exactly what he promised to deliver, the only failure would be that it’s not for the majority – but isn’t that what makes a movie special?