(aka "The Ordeal" )


directed by Fabrice Du Welz
Belgium / France / Luxembourg 2004


Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas) is a drag-variete singer, whos car breaks down on his way to a Christmas performance, and who is taken in by the kind innkeeper Paul Bartel (Jackie Berroyer). But hardly has Marc woken up, before he realizes, that the innkeeper is preventing him from leaving... ever leaving.

While "The Ordeal" has been praised from all sides, I find it more a Gasper Noe-ish Euro Sleaze variation of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Straw Dogs" and "Deliverance". There is little story but to lead up to sadistic exploitation and torments of the protagonist, camouflaged by pseudo religious allusions.

The original title alone, Calvaire, is the hill outside Jerusalem on which Jesus was crucified, suggests a religious context; and Marc is crucified as part of his torments, as is part of his head shaved, as is he raped and beaten and humiliated. Also the situation of it being Christmas and he, perhaps a virgin but without sin, coming to an inn, alludes a perverted image of Mary. But rather than him being a Christ like figure, choosing to die for our sins, Marc is to be killed because others are sinners. It is really hard to read any honest religious out of the context, and to me it seems more like a pseudo facade trying to make the sleaze look like Arthouse.

But "The Ordeal" is not without idea. Hidden behind the surface, is a perverted love story between a truly sick man (Bartel, the innkeeper) and his prisoner Marc. This approach is far more rewarding than any attempts to read the film as many critics have suggested. Du Welz takes full advantage of sound and vision to play with the idea of love, most beautifully in the scene, where Marc has escaped and Bartel is following him, where one is given the illusion of Bartel shouting "I Love You", but distorting it with the sound of wind between the trees.

I also find it curious, that so many have mentioned "The Ordeal" as a funny or comical movie. "The Ordeal" is a sad film; sad as in Marc being naive to love, pushing love away, only to be "loved" by a sick man, who believes Marc to be his late wife.

In light of the hype around Gasper Noe and Euro Sleaze, "The Ordeal" in my opinion is being watched in a wrong light. Once the hype is gone, the film will hopefully find a new audience, who will see it in a different light, and perhaps then, it will be reevaluated.

"The Ordeal" is an interesting film, that deserves better than being promoted for its sickness.

Henrik Sylow


Theatrical Release: May 18, 2004 (Cannes Film Festival)

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DVD Review: Tartan - Region 0 - PAL

Big thanks to Henrik Sylow for the Review!

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Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 1:27:45 (4% PAL speedup)

2.50:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.20 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio 2.0 Dolby Digital French, 5.1 Dolby Digital French, DTS French
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Tartan

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.50:1

Edition Details:
• A Wonderful Love (21:38 / 4:3)
• Interview with Fabrice Du Welz (26:35 / 16x9)
• Original Trailer (1:37 / 4:3)

DVD Release Date: March 27, 2006
Keep Case

Chapters 16



Comments The transfer appears to be the same as the French Studio Canal, and it is flawless. Colors are strong, blacks solid, details rich and no visible artifacts.

The sound is standard for Tartan, 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS, here the DTS is slightly better than the 5.1, as it really allows the rears and subtle sounds to come forward. Great crystal clear sound.

The additional material begins with a rather dull interview, with stock questions like 'what are your influences' and so forth. Following this is Du Welz's short film "C’est Merveilleux Quand on est Amoureux", which won Grand Prix at the Gérardmer Film Festival in 1999, and introduces style and composition, which Du Welz later uses in Calvaire.

Sadly missing here is the audio commentary by Du Welz and the Making of documentary, which has been substituted by the interview.

 - Henrik Sylow



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