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July 07, 2015

The Treatment


De Behandeling
Hans Herbots - 2014
Artsploitation Films BD Region A

A difficult film to watch. A difficult film to write about. This is primarily a police procedural that deals with pedophiles, so between the subject matter, and writing about a film without giving too much away, there is for me, a look for the right balance. Adding to the complication of the manhunt, is that the lead detective, Nick, is the brother of a boy who was kidnapped by a pedophile, and has not been seen since then, adding personal motivation to Nick's detective work. And Nick has a neighbor, an older man, who taunts Nick with letters that suggest that he knows what has happened to the brother since he disappeared almost twenty years ago.

And while this Belgian film is not graphic in its depiction of what happens to any of the young boys who are victims, there are enough visual and aural hints to cause discomfort for all but the most insensitive viewer. It is as if Hans Herbots has taken the adage regarding horror films, that the scariest thing is what is left to the imagination of the audience. Without giving anything away, some of the answers to Nick's questions have turned out to be right in front of him.

The story might be described as a tragedy of errors, where Nick's zealousness, coupled with partial information, or misinterpreting what may be seen or head, causes many mistakes even as he gets closer to resolving the current investigation. The viewer may take on Nick's viewpoint, such as a scene with a swimming instructor, as it turns out falsely accused of being a child molester. The instructor is surrounded by a his students, all early elementary school aged, too close for the comfort of the instructor or the viewer. There are shots from the point of view of the instructor, underwater, looking at the children swimming, that are open to interpretation. There is at least one "MacGuffin" driving the action.

Nick's flashbacks to the last time he saw his brother have some visual clues as to the future of Nick and his brother, Bjorn. The two are playing "cowboys and indians". In addition to his cowboy hat, young Nick has facial hair added to his face, done with some kind of make-up, that makes him look, from the distance, like the man that he will become. What Nick remembers about the last time he saw Bjorn was the indian headdress his brother wore that day.

As with other films from Artsploitation, The Treatment teeters between art and exploitation, pushing the proverbial envelope. Films such as this do raise a multiplicity of questions regarding the role of film, the filmmaker and the subject matter. There is no question about the quality of the craftsmanship of Hans Herbots. The blu-ray comes with deleted scenes and an explanation for why each of those scenes was not used. At various points in the film, children talk about a possible threat by someone or something called the troll, initially dismissed by Nick as an urban legend shared between children. What makes The Treatment discomforting is that it is about real monsters.


Posted by Peter Nellhaus at July 7, 2015 08:19 AM