Directed by Bas Devos
15-year-old Jesse is the only one who witnessed the stabbing of his friend Jonas. Now he has to face his family and friends from the BMX riders crew and explain the unexplainable - how he feels about it.
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★★★★★ review by Kurdt on Letterboxd
Well this is incredible. Can I just take the final line of The Hollow Men and use it describe this film? Not with a bang but a whimper. This might not be about the world ending but it’s delicate and transcendent, incredibly appraising the concept of guilt, loss and and burgeoning identity within youth through some stunning compositions. Genuinely not hyperbole when I say this is one of the best shot films I’ve ever seen. Shot in 4:3, part 65mm, part digital, it would be a disservice if I attempted to simply describe some of the compositions in Violet. I could never get across the beauty, the isolation, the at times subtly horrific imagery, and the expressionistic daze this film is cocooned within. It’s like there’s a gossamer thin layer of dread dangling over everything like a spider slowly spinning its web. The film retains this eerie wrongness throughout, much like how we see the stabbing of Jesse’s friend through multiple mall security cameras in the very first shot, that evasive act of spectating is retained as the camera glides omnisciently through the suburban streets at night. Darkness exists first, and in each frame it’s like it is contorted so brief snippets of light can burst from within, hidden secrets threatening to reveal themselves.
There’s a desperate hum on the soundtrack, only punctured by the ferociously loud Deafheaven concert scene in the middle of the film which perfectly highlights the isolation and the draining apathy overtaking Jesse. But the hum on the soundtrack adds to the beautiful frames to create this constantly unnerving menace that feels like it’s just outside the corners of the 4:3 frame, and we can’t see it, and we can’t stop it. What this creates, what the film does so well is elucidate that hollowness within each of us that reveals itself. Horrible things will happen, you will be responsible for them, and maybe you’ll feel nothing at all. You’ll want to feel guilty, you’ll want to cry and mourn and slice your wrists to pieces, and there will be nothing there. Life will go on, and maybe you’ll just retain a sense of uselessness and regret forever. You may feel trauma, but only in a soft, bruising way when you really just want to alleviate yourself through self sacrifice and colossal outbursts. But life will go on at the same pace.
There’s very little dialogue within Violet, and even the constricting 4:3 aspect ratio is full of emptiness and hollow darkness. It’s apt that the final moments, which are absolutely breathtaking, contain no people in the frame. Like the lights within most shots, we’re just here in the shadow of the darkness, at the will of smoke, fog, fire and rain. It will outlast us, there is nothing you can do but be shaped by the world around you, random acts that will mould you into the person you will become whether you want to be that version of yourself or not. The best film I’ve seen all year? Possibly.
★★★★½ review by Jay Sherman on Letterboxd
Astonishing from start to finish. Violet is a film not for those who dream or think but to those who feel and listen. Whether you like Bas Devos's directorial debut entirely depends on how much you are into audiovisual filmmaking. Of course, all filmmaking is audiovisual, but some depend more on sound design and images than others (that may depend on dialogue). Little is said in Violet. Neither do we really know any of the characters in the film, but with the beautiful shots in 4:3, we somehow get closer to our protagonist Jesse and his traumatization.
I wish every film could look like Violet. Some shots are so beautiful that they put you in a crying state. Especially the tracking shots of the small BMX gang where all the small details come into play, hence the colors, the focus etc.
Films that stick with me for a long time after the credits roll are those I like the best. I will never, in my entire life, forget Violet. Bas Devos was clearly influenced by Béla Tarr (which he admitted during an interview) when making this.
★★★★½ review by Pierrot Le Fou on Letterboxd
I feel exhausted, drained, empty. I did not expect something like this, at all, and I certainly did not expect it to affect me this much. It's slow, really really slow, with incredibly beautiful drawn out shots that seem to go on forever. The framing is impeccable with the camera often focusing on still objects like we're just staring into nothingness and when the camera does focus on character it's really close-up but feels disconnected. On the surface cold and emotionless but you can see the pain and hurt inside. Besides one scene there is no music. And hardly any dialogue, just silence but that's fine because we don't need words. This is pure, this is feeling, this is what cinema is all about. I'm crying.
Part of my `I’m going to watch your favorites` list.
★★★★★ review by Robbe Vandekeere on Letterboxd
WAUW, WAUW, WAUW, WAUW, WAUW, WAUW, WAUW!!
Nieuwe film toegevoegd bij mijn persoonlijke toppers!
Damn, deze film is zo goed! Bas Devos en Nicolas Karakatsanis vormen een topteam!
Deze film vertelt zoveel enkel met beelden, dat er niet veel dialoog nodig is. En dat doen ze op een prachtige manier.
Ook de klank is heel leuk aangepakt, heel subjectief.
Nog 1 keer: WAUW!
★★★★★ review by Micah Van Hove on Letterboxd
A breathtaking meditation on digital surveillance, suburban violence, the parasitic effect of digital images on memory and the human power of forgetting -- that slow but steady erasure of trauma.
Violet is graceful and cerebral, but once absorbed becomes visceral -- carving out an experiential headspace for some heavy reflection. A church of a movie, both Tarkovsky and Haneke (two of my three favorite filmmakers) would be proud of this unbeknownst lovechild of philosophies.
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