Hellhole (2019)

The Brussels bombings of 2016 yield a meditation on isolation amid the abruptly widened distances dividing a multicultural city in Bas Devos’ impressionistic second feature.

Composed of elliptical fragments that only occasionally interconnect, this is a challenging experimental tone poem that’s almost as much an art installation as a narrative feature. But the tightly controlled use of voyeuristic camera movement, sound and light to convey collective trauma commands attention and should ensure some exposure in specialized forums.

Devos begins with an urban noisescape – indistinct voices, a subway train, the flutter of a bird’s wings – playing over a blank screen, signaling from the start his intention to break down our standard modes of observation.

He follows with initial glimpses of three different people. Mehdi (Hamza Belarbi) is a youth of Algerian descent, suffering from persistent headaches. Alba (Alba Rohrwacher) is a chronically exhausted Italian translator working at the European Parliament, who admits only to her sister back home how afraid she’s become. Wannes (Willy Thomas) is a Flemish doctor whose son is a military fighter pilot, on a tour of duty in the Middle East.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

  • Orig. title:
  • Language: Arabic, English, Dutch, Italian, French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Distribution: Les Films du Losange
  • Print source: Les Films du Losange
  • Cinematography: Nicolas Karakatsanis
  • Editing: Dieter Diependaele
  • Music: James Kirby
  • Sound: Boris Debackere
  • Production design: Elsje de Bruin