Vinyan (2008)
By: Julian on October 2, 2009  | 
Sony (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. English, English (FHI) Subtitles. 92 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Fabrice Du Welz
Starring: Emmanuelle Bèart, Rufus Sewell, Julie Dreyfus, Petch Osathanugrah, Amporn Pankratok
Screenplay: Oliver Blackburn, Fabrice Du Welz, David Greig
Country: France/Belgium/UK
External Links
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Fabrice Du Welz's first feature, The Ordeal, was probably one of the most disappointingly average of the Gallic shockers that came out of the cycle – it was atypically gore-free (although one particular scene lent it enough notoriety for it to be mentioned in the same breath as ultra-violent shockers like Inside and High Tension) and was essentially an exceedingly slow psychological thriller that culminated in an unnecessarily weird climax. Vinyan is identical in construction, but has less of an impact than The Ordeal (even though it uses the sucker-punch of a missing child) and suffers from even worse pacing problems. As in The Ordeal, the one scene to stir the pot is there, thrown in almost as an afterthought and totally out of place as a bizarre coda to an ordinary, uniformly dull picture.

Emmanuelle Béart and Rufus Sewell play Jeanne and Paul Bellmer, who lost their only child in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami. The couple have remained in Thailand for six months, emotionally destitute. At a charity event designed to raise money for impoverished orphaned children in Burma, Jeanne is convinced she sees their son in one of the videos the event's organiser Kim (Julie Dreyfus) has taken, clad in the Manchester United shirt he went missing in. Although Paul is convinced his wife is still grieving Kim gives him her contacts that got her beyond the impenetrable Burmese borders, a very shady extortionist group of people smugglers headed by the Triad leader Thaksin Gao (Petch Osathanugrah).

We're about twenty minutes into the film by now as it commences its second act, a good hour of aimless journey. There's not a lot that redeems the film here – an original and gripping hook has gotten attention thus far but David Greig, Oliver Blackburn (writer/director of Donkey Punch) and Du Welz's terminally boring script fails to keep it. There's a difference between slow-burn to maximise intrigue (which is attempted, to diminishing success, in the first twenty-odd minutes of Act Two when Jeanne and Paul are looking for Thaksin Gao in a series of seedy Bangkok clubs), but almost half of the film is filler. An unexpectedly brutal, unexplained and vaguely inappropriate final couple of minutes doesn't prevent Vinyan from being a well-shot test of patience, one that had me hover around the 'Stop' button on my DVD remote on more than one occasion.

To make more of a mention of how the film is shot – the camerawork is definitely the best thing about Vinyan. The film was lensed by Benoît Debie, who worked on Irrevérsible and The Card Player. It's a very slick production, with the jungle cinematography undeniably sinister and often quite scary, and a number of critics have compared it with Vittorio Storaro's DP work on Apocalypse Now. It's a worthy association, with Debie taking us on a gruelling and claustrophobic journey with some consummately executed camerawork.

Béart and Sewell's performances are largely good, but there are times they're unconvincing. Béart goes through the entire film with a thick veneer of indifference; part of this is certainly the nature of the character but these emotional tics are laboured. Sewell oscillates between vaguely belligerent and uncomfortably histrionic but he hits the mark more often than not as Paul fruitlessly attempts to console Jeanne or negotiate with the Triad leaders who are consistently trying to rip the hapless duo off.

But despite the visuals or the acting, it takes little away from the fact that Vinyan is just a boring, pointless exercise, a real chore to sit through. It's worth noting that Vinyan is by no means a horror film, certainly less than what The Ordeal is, and it certainly doesn't fit into the French shock horror subgenre that Inside, Frontiere(s), High Tension, Martyrs et al do, I went in expecting something I didn't get, but the source of my disappointment doesn't come from that: it comes from the fact that Du Welz has made such a frustratingly dull picture out of a fantastic premise. It has its merits, but Vinyan was a bitter disappointment.
Picture is presented in 2.35:1 with 16:9 enhancement, and it looks fine.
One English Dolby 5.1 audio track is provided. It's as expected – clear and crisp, with the dialogue always sharp.
Extra Features
A 50-minute making-of featurette and theatrical trailers for this film and Seven Pounds are included. No point going R1 at this stage, unless a fistful of bonus trailers appeals.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
There's a difference between a slow-burning psychological thriller and a long-winded art movie masquerading as a slow-burning psychological thriller. Vinyan, like Du Welz's debut picture, is the latter. The cinematography and above-average performances provide something to enjoy but otherwise, Vinyan is disposable.

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