In Bruges (2008)

A very writerly black comedy, one that methodically works through a number of very distinct acts, with each flipping and deepening understanding of the previous.

Dialogue is the key ingredient here, and perhaps why the film is sometimes identified as Tarantino-esque (for my money, the pervasive religious aspect and unrushed moral rumination sets it apart pretty handily). The cast do great work with the sort of lines that feel the product of draft after draft, honing the most lyrical way to offbeat dark humour in a film so pointedly morose.

The sense of place is also strong, and there’s a real sense of fun to how the film portrays Bruges. Initially it feels sarcastic, a play on the idea of how one could feel dissatisfied with such a plainly picturesque city, but it evolves into something more purgatorial as the moral crux of the film is hammered home. There’s a real weight to violence as the film conceives of it, an untransmutable cost that spirals out beyond tidy or righteous conceptions of violence as one might make. Forgiveness is almost besides the point, with the inherent inconclusiveness of violent retribution the thornier issue the film is interested in. The humour of the film and its thematic concerns don’t always marry well (the score is the worst element here, too self-conscious in how it adds or contrasts to the emotions being suggested), but both are strong elements on their own, at least.

Three and a half alcoves, and a ice-cream not in the actual film.

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