A controversial Dutch-Belgian drama, originally titled Wji, We is the adaptation of Elvis Peeters novel depicting the story of eight teenagers over a summer that will change their lives forever. According to the movie, this is a story based on real events, which makes it all the more troubling; split into four narratives, it is punctuated by streetlights depicting one of four characters name telling their side of the story over a judicial tape recorder as they recall the events of that fateful summer.
It is an unusually hot summer and a group of middle class, privileged teenagers are desperately bored and looking for something to do; they are unable to ‘feel anything’ as everything feels ‘fake’. They snigger at their parents’ generation, they refute conformity and view everything as meaningless and restrictive.
They are essentially thrill seekers stopping at nothing in their quest to push boundaries and experience for ‘real’. Soon their depraved games escalate in pure, brutal violence, throwing in the mix prostitution, assault and extortion along the way. Their remorseless attitude makes the story even harder to stomach.
Rene Eller’s movie has been on the festival circuit since its completion in 2018, as it enjoyed screenings in Rome, Rotterdam and the Raindance Festival, collecting various nominations and awards along the way. And, notably, it won Best Director at the 2018 Raindance Film Festival, possibly because of its ability to translate such a shocking read into an even more disturbing visual experience.
We is also beautifully shot and superbly edited, earning Wouter van Luijn, the film editor, an award and understandably so, as a monumental scene depicting a turning point when one of the teenagers finally, and tragically, feels ‘alive’ is superbly put together. The youngsters’ skilful ability to portray their characters, together with a haunting soundtrack, makes it a compelling watch.
Eller’s not only directed the movie, his first, but co-produced it too and I would be interested to understand how he went about to manage to capture so brilliantly the essence of the perception of Generation Z and its boredom; above all, that’s what captured me, his ability to translate beyond dialogue a generation with so much at its disposal and yet so painfully bored and lost in itself.
Let’s be clear, though, as a (nearly) middle aged woman, I found We truly painful to watch – striking and obscenely graphic violent scenes had me covering my eyes, feeling queasy and hoping for it to come to an end as quickly as possible. I spent hours in a daze after watching it and it disturbed my sleep that night. Maybe I’m not as desensitised as I would like to be, or maybe I am becoming too vulnerable to violence as we live in a society where violence against other human beings has become the new normal and watching gratuitous ferocity is simply too much for me.
Nevertheless, it is an outstanding picture in its ability to shock, challenge and frustrate its audience, and praise is certainly due.
Artspoitation Films announced its release on DVD and Blu-ray February 18th.
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