“It is not every day that we are needed.”
So opens the new film “Ne Me Quitte Pas” with this fitting quote from playwright Samuel Beckett. It seems that Bob Flemish and Marcel Walloon (who play themselves), the protagonists of this Dutch near-mockumentary, are never needed by anyone but one another. Though tackling a rather depressing subject matter, “Ne Me Quitte Pas” provides a generally comical take on the lives of two men two men who struggle to face life’s problems.
Flemish and Walloon are two men living in a small town in Belgium who drown their sorrows in rum and ponder questions of life. The two lead lonely lives together, their shared activities ranging from dentist visits to planning suicide methods. Flemish, the older of the two, offers wisdom and advice to a recently separated Walloon who struggles to come to terms with his wife’s departure. The two could not be more perfect for each other, like symbiotic organisms who feed off each other’s misery in order to survive.
This documentary, which views more like an artistic fictional film, might be too slow-paced for most viewers, but its dialogue keeps it entertaining. Sabine Lubbe Bakker and Niels Van Koevorden, the directors, succeed in creating a beautifully-told tale. In addition, Koevorden’s cinematography is magnificent, contributing to the creative and expressive nature of the film.
Considering that Flemish and Walloon are not actors by trade, their presence on screen is very natural. It is as if they are unaffected by the notion of a camera documenting the questionable lifestyles they lead. Their conversations are not censored and they feel no shame in showing who they are. Perhaps it is all part of their nihilism — they are too busy in their own despair to notice anything around them.
It appears that Flemish has his life more together than Walloon does — or at least he is more content with it. However, as the story progresses, viewers realize alongside Walloon that Flemish is hiding darker demons. He is in denial of his alcoholism and has been estranged from his son for years. Though Walloon is the one to check into an alcohol clinic, it is clear that Flemish is the one with greater problems.
“Ne Me Quitte Pas” is a surprisingly a bold film. It takes on the challenge of covering the mundane and selfish lives of two men who refuse to put effort into escaping from the deep black hole of their existence. Indeed, there are no choreographed action sequences or mass explosions. But the dedicated viewer (who does not mind reading subtitles) will gain insight on how to live. Through Flemish and Walloon, we are taught that once you fall into a monotonous rhythm of being, there is a slim chance of ever escaping.
“Ne Me Quitte Pas” will be released for the first time in the U.S. on Friday, Nov. 18.
Email Daniella Nichinson at [email protected]