In need of a hug after watching Bullhead
It was an accident that happened an early morning. I was driving to my job at a local newspaper one hour away when it ran into the side of my car. I didn’t see it happen, but I heard the thumping sound and as I stopped and watched in the mirror, I saw it lying on the ground. I saw there were twitches in the bodies and I opened my mouth and screamed.
I didn’t imagine anyone would hear me, or rather I didn’t even think about it. I was too shocked to think a single clear thought.
Fortunately there were other people around who hadn’t lost their minds and who didn’t hesitate to get involved and help out in the way they could. Before I knew it a trailer had stopped behind me. And in the mirror I saw the driver walk out from it with a jack in his hand. He hit the deer a few times in the head with it until it didn’t move anymore. Then he came up to me and brought me to his cab where I could sit and calm down while called the police. Arriving at the place, they decided that I was in too bad shape to safely drive the rest of the way to my job. So one of them did it for me with me as a passenger.
However I couldn’t let go of what just had happened. So I did the only thing I could to get it out of my system: I wrote about it. It was a personal piece titled something along the lines: “Me – a murderer”. (And yes, in case you wonder, it got into the paper. Nothing you write at a small newspaper is wasted; they can’t afford it. There’s a space to be filled, you know.)
The moment I was done with the text, I could feel how the deer episode lost its hold on me. Writing as therapy is pretty damned good, you know.
And that’s why I’m sitting here, writing about a movie I just have watched. Normally I would let the movie sink in for a day or two before even consider writing about it. I need to put a little bit of distance between the film and myself to really see it. If I’m too close, the picture gets blurry.
Putting Bullhead behind me
But after watching Bullhead tonight I’m afraid I won’t be able to sleep unless I first write about it, so I can get it out of my head. I left the salon exhausted, nauseated and in desperate need of some kind of comfort. So here I am, writing to put it behind me.
Bullhead was nominated by Belgium for the best foreign movie category of the Academy awards this year, leaving out another Belgian film, The Kid With a Bike, from the competition. Now that I’ve seen both I’m not that surprised of the decision. While I really liked The Kid With a Bike, this is a film that really stuck with me.
Without giving away too much of the plot, I can say as much that it’s a crime drama taking place among cattle farmers who use illegal hormones on the animals to maximize their profit. In the center of the film is Jacky, who doesn’t just inject hormones in cows. He’s using illegal medications on himself as well, and apparently it hasn’t just caused his body to blow up to gigantic proportions, it also has a bad impact on his health and temperament. Most of the time he walks around resembling to the Hulk as he’s just gotten mad and turned into the green guy, but much creepier, since he’s not a goodhearted comic character. If someone comes in his way in the wrong moment you assume he will be beaten up or possibly killed. You wouldn’t want to meet him alone at a late hour in the city.
My dislike for Jacky was massive to begin with, until the movie suddenly took a jump 20 years back in time and we got to see some events taking place in his childhood, which changed the whole picture. It didn’t make him less scary or some of the action he takes less horrible. But it helped me understand him and even pity him.
And this of course makes the events that follow even worse to witness.
It’s hard to describe how “tough” a film is to watch, since it varies so much between us. All I can do is to compare it to other films I’ve seen recently and I think it’s safe to say that this was the toughest watch so far this year from a violence point of view, only challenged by Tyrannosaur. If I go back to last year we have Drive that is in this league, but the question is if this one isn’t worse. It made me take a fetal position in my seat and beg for hugs on Twitter after I left the cinema (which I sadly didn’t get.)
It’s dark, it’s tragic, it’s depressing and I can imagine that the organization for meat producers in Belgium wasn’t too happy seeing it launched internationally. While the movie never makes a huge deal of the cattle business, focusing on the human drama, it still evoked disgust and disbelief and a passing thought about that it might be about time that I went back to vegetarianism again.
The film does have a couple of weak points. I’m especially thinking of the part of two car mechanics, who serve as some kind of comic relief, as silly and stupid as the Thompson brothers. I guess they were supposed to brighten up things a bit, but all they achieve is to appear misplaced.
But that’s just a minor complaint that shouldn’t overshadow how good the movie is. It’s apparently the debut of the director, and what a debut! I also can’t talk about this film without mentioning the actor Matthias Schoenaerts, who gained 27 kilos for his role as Jacky. The story is that he did this without the use of hormones, though it’s hard to believe when you see him. This is the kind of performance where you just can’t get into your head that this actually is an actor playing a role and not a real person.
I’ve been talking and talking and talking tonight and I’m afraid your ears are bleeding at this point, after over 1000 words. I’m recovered now and I suddenly feel how sleepy I am. No wonder, considering it is 1 AM in the morning.
Thank you for staying with me! It’s time to let Bullhead go.
It remains to see weather I’ll order a steak next time I go to a restaurant. I’m afraid I can’t completely shake of the image I just got of Belgian food industry.
Bullhead (Rundskop, Michael R. Roskam, BE 2011) My rating: 4,5/5