Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Magnet Man (2023) Film Review
The Magnet Man
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Gust Van den Berghe proves adept at detailed world creation with his irresistibly visually attractive The Magnet Man, which takes us into the world of the circus.
Lucien (Danny Ronaldo, who is a circus performer in real life) is leading a rural life in literal shades of grey with his mother and father. A protagonist in the Buster Keaton mode, there's not much to smile about in his loneliness. His one skill, although using that word for it is certainly debatable, is that he is able to attract metal objects in the manner of a magnet - an ability that is brought home in gloriously comic fashion after an altar boy's swinging censer becomes stuck to his leg at his mother's funeral.
Things change when opportunity - in an unusual form - comes knocking at his door. Heading to the station to meet his father with a violin stuffed with money, the hapless Lucien finds himself unfortunately glued to a train and, not long after, knocked off it. This is just the start of a transition - from black and white to colour and from loneliness to a form of companionship as he finds himself joining a circus, where he falls for Gervaise Malfait (Isolda Dychauk), the daughter of the owner.
Lucien is an innocent abroad in a world of detail and colour. From the start, Van den Berghe uses in camera effects, including cotton wool for clouds, which helps us to step into this carefully crafted world. There's something of the vibrancy of the world of Jean-Pierre Jeunet but also the melancholy of Roy Andersson's creations and the famous transition of The Wizard Of Oz about this universe but it is, ultimately, all Van den Berghe's own. Within it Ronaldo brings impeccable comic timing to his taciturn hero as his tragicomic trajectory takes him back home and into an unexpected relationship with a neighbour (Mieke Dobbels), who may not entirely have his best interests at heart.
As Van den Berghe noted when he talked to us about The Magnet Man, there is a whisper of Pinocchio to this story. Not in the moral content, since Lucien is a true innocent who has a much simpler relationship with the world than the little wooden boy, but in the tragicomic element of the tale, which mixes humour with the deeply melancholic.
While the narrative is straightforward, it's the textures encountered along the way which make it sing - from the make-up and performance of the Jan Bijvoet as pure-hearted Pierrot to a perfectly framed shot of a violin hanging from a tree and the often mournful brass scoring from David Van Keer and Birger Embrechts. The humour is also multi-textured stemming not just from the joy of Lucien imagining himself bouncing in the air with Gervaise, but also from moments of sorrow, such as when rain pours only on him as he moves around the screen. A fairytale that draws on the familiar but flourishes in its own unexpected ways.Reviewed on: 18 Nov 2023
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