The Treatment
"One of the most powerful films of the year."

There are some subjects that cinema rarely touches on. It's one thing to enjoy a bit of horror, something else to take on real world horrors one feels helpless to stop. Hans Herbots' uncompromising crime thriller reminds us that cinema exists to confront the things we shy away from, to take us through the full range of human experience. Made with vision and integrity, and a massive hit on home soil, The Treatment is a rare example of a film that admits no compromise. It's one of the most powerful films of the year.

The premise is simple enough, and will appeal to fans of modern noir. Nick (Geert Van Rampelberg) is a detective brought in to investigate when a child goes missing. He's practical, hard working, good at his job, but he has a difficult history. When he was a child his little brother, Bjorn, was snatched by a stranger. The case was never solved, despite the wild claims of a sex offender who lives nearby and has taunted him about it ever since. Now, as the case before him develops, he begins to wonder if there could be a connection between the two, and all the old terror and suspicion returns to haunt him.

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Prior to this, there have been two attempts to adapt Mo Hayder's 2002 novel - one in the UK and one in the US. Neither was successful, and what makes this film so potent is the extra dimension added to the story by Belgium's own history in relation to child abuse. The Dutroux case that rocked the establishment in 1996, though it resulted in only a small number of arrests, saw the country's entire policing system reformed due to allegations of corruption and much more widespread paedophile networks. There are distinct echoes of that case here, not least in the film's bleak final scene. In addition, there is the legacy of King Leopold of Belgium's brutal actions in Rwanda that led, across generations, to civil strife in which the particular distressing act central to this story was used as a weapon of war. These real world horrors lie close to the surface in The Treatment, never letting us imagine that its subject is purely fictitious.

As a veteran of TV crime drama, Herbots delivers a lengthy, twisting film which feels at times as though it would have worked better as a mini-series, but its multiple threads mean there's always plenty going on to hold the viewer's attention. Van Rampelberg is superb in the lead, eschewing the stereotypes of the trauma victim and giving us someone whose deep seated need to know the truth about his brother still leaves room for other concerns. Ingrid De Vos also stands out as a frighteningly believable monster, one of many in a tale that is concerned less with single incidents than with the parallel universe of abuse networks, the commodification of suffering. This is thoroughly deglamourised, and Herbots achieves that rare thing every crime storyteller aspires to, resensitising jaded viewers and reminding them why it all matters.

There are some subjects that cinema rarely touches on, and that's probably a good thing, because for all that they desperately need to be talked about, that needs to be done well. He may have made a film that has trouble finding viewers, but Herbots has made a film everyone should see.

Reviewed on: 01 Mar 2015
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The Treatment packshot
A detective whose little brother disappeared long ago has to investigate a similar case.
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Director: Hans Herbots

Writer: Carl Joos, based on the novel by Mo Hayder

Starring: Geert Van Rampelberg, Ina Geerts, Johan van Assche

Year: 2015

Runtime: 125 minutes

Country: Belgium


Glasgow 2015

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