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New Release Review - THE TREATMENT

A detective investigates the disappearance of a child.


Directed by: Hans Herbot

Starring: Geert Van Rampelberg, Ina Geerts




"This is a hearty slice of Northern European Noir, and if you have a taste for that genre you’ll appreciate this film. Just don’t ask me what The Treatment actually is. I don’t want to talk about it."


The Treatment is one of those films that suspends the viewer in the dirty swirl around an open drain. For some this will be a dark entertainment and for others a contaminating and upsetting exposure. A married couple are discovered in their home, bound and restrained, nearly dead from dehydration after days of captivity. Their son is missing, and the investigation points toward a predatory paedophile. Based on British author Mo Hayder’s second novel, a sequel to her debut hit Birdman, the action is here transposed from England to Belgium, and this Flemish language thriller borders the milieu of ‘Nordic Noir’.
The protagonist, Detective Nick Cafmeyer, is a post-traumatic hero, in the mold of the Millennium Series’ Lisbeth Salander or True Detective’s Rustin Cole, without the arch coping mechanisms of those two freshly-minted culture heroes. Nick’s younger brother was abducted before his very eyes when they were children and he is haunted by this fact and the tormenting provocations of the very man who did it. Like Lisbeth and Cole, Cafmeyer is obsessively focussed, solitary and very willing to bend the rules of his job in order to pursue justice and maybe closure.
As a Belgian production, The Treatment conforms to a style which blurs the distinction between TV and cinema thrillers. Shots hug the actors, holding them in the middle distance or tighter fields of depth. Close-ups linger, proximity is favoured, and the light is naturalistic to the point of stiflingly underlit. It all seems too realistic at times, if you’re not enamoured with that aesthetic. Given the seriousness of the topic, the film is unflinching without being exploitative but I wonder if its earnestness and unwillingness to sensationalise won’t render it samey and banal for some, too much like other hard-edged European crime stories. It favours intensity over panache at all times.
Carl Joos' script is well-structured, confident, and crisp, setting up a few key story threads that play out simultaneously against each other without losing pace. They know when to drop a thread and pick it up elsewhere. A lot is packed into the two-hour run time, much of it dismally believable. Sadism is a story theme and a focus for action. Sadists piss against doors of rooms where people are chained to radiators and people chained to radiators piss on the carpet when they have no other choice. The fact that The Treatment is an adaptation means there is plenty of plot to keep driving through, bypassing some of the scenes which might otherwise be lingered over. This is a strength and a weakness, depending on taste. Overall, the story is focussed, evading the pitfalls of many adaptations of novels. It also manages to paint a picture around the central characters, alluding to social issues such as racism and the blindspots of institutions and the people who serve them.
I actually read The Treatment, and Birdman, around the time they came out, and I think the burden of having to introduce the lead character and tell the second part of his story as though it were the first puts a little too much pressure on a film that needs to breath in order to fully en-trance its viewers with horror and disgust.
However, this is a hearty slice of North European crime Noir, and if you have a taste for that genre you’ll appreciate this film. Just don’t ask me what The Treatment actually is. I don’t want to talk about it.




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