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Vinyan (2008)

A couple are looking for their child who was lost in the tsunami – their search takes them to the dangerous Thai-Burmese waters, and then into the jungle, where they face unknown but horrifying dangers.

Vinyan is the first English language project from writer and director Fabrice du Welz. The plot revolves around aid workers Paul and Jeanne Bellmer (Rufus Sewell and Emmanuelle Beart), whose son was lost in a tsunami six months before the film begins.

At a fundraiser for a project to assist a village of abandoned children in Burma, their photographer/journalist friend Kim (Julie Dreyfus – Kill Bill) shows a video she took of children living in abject poverty in Burma. Jeanne interrupts the screening to pause the film, and she becomes convinced that one of the children in the footage, out of focus and not even facing the camera, is her missing son. Obviously she then becomes obsessed with finding him and the village shown on the film.

Their host shows some grainy footage of the village in question and describes how the only way into the region was to pay for the services of a Triad boss, Thaksin Gao (Petch Osathanugrah), who will escort them upriver. During the taxi ride home, Paul is sceptical and tries to reason with her, but Jeanne is in the grip of a fully formed obsession and plunges into the criminal underworld to locate Gao. But is it all worth it? Is that blurry image on the video concrete evidence that their long-lost son is still alive? Or are they just chasing ghosts? And does anyone else really want to sit through this film, maybe I should just spoil it for you and save you from losing 90 minutes or so of your life? ( I won’t, don’t worry!)

Vinyan is really all about their journey of denial. We see a mother and a father who go on a steady psychological decline, especially the mother who just won’t accept that her son might be dead. In one poignant scene set on a moonlit beach, Gao and some of his colleagues release lanterns to into the sky, offerings to those who have died badly, whose souls cannot make the transition to the next world. They are called ‘vinyan’, because they are tormented and angry ghosts. Gao asks her to release a lantern, but the mother won’t light one because she says her son isn’t dead.

They eventually stumble into what I can only describe as a modern-day ‘Lord of the Flies’ style area of the jungle, populated by little Burmese children. I kept on watching hoping that the ending would justify me watching the rest of the movie. However, it didn’t. The ending is one of the weirdest endings I have ever seen, and not in a good way. I mean, it’s just wrong and creepy on so many levels. If anyone has seen this I’m sure you will agree there is something not right about that scene………

I came away from watching this feeling like Vinyan was supposed to be a kind of exploration of the human psyche; a symbolic exploration of the deepness of a mother’s grief I guess. However I just found it dull and a little pretentious.

Vinyan is neither a horror or a thriller, which surprised me as that is really what it was marketed as and implied in the trailer. (The trailer makes the film look good – don’t fall for it!). It would fall more under the drama genre in my opinion. There are no real scares, nor is there anything gory. Honestly, reading other reviews which state there are really horrifying and brutal moments, I dread to think what they say about some of the other ‘real horror’ films out there. Aside from some kids biting someone, throwing some rocks and the odd stabbing, there is nothing bloody going on here, so not a film for the pure gore hounds amongst you. We do see a bit of nudity though if that’s your thing!

There are so many bad points, but the main one for me (aside from the awful ending!) is that for the film to be watched, you not only have to suspend a portion of disbelief, you have to suspend all sense of intelligence to sit through this film. The premise of a boy lost in a tsunami, only to later appear in a video is strange, but miracles do happen and it’s nice to watch a film sometimes where hope is the key factor. Yet the fact that a seemingly intelligent couple would hand over large sums of money to some shady character who barely talks to them and offers no proof is unbelievable. I have never been in this position and obviously pray I never am. I can only guess that you would want to do anything within your power to find your missing child, and if some weird guy you found on the streets said he could take you there for an extortionate price, I assume I would do whatever it took. Maybe. But surely there are better ways…….I don’t know, once the idea was there that they could locate this village the characters descended into madness, the mother especially, and the film got weirder and crazier. The last 10 minutes or so were surreal, and again just really poor execution in the way the characters behaved and the reasoning’s for what went on. It also doesn’t help that the audio in the film was poor, it was really hard to hear people at times, and the mixture of accents doesn’t help.

As for positives, well the cinematography was superb, there were some truly haunting  shots, and the film offers a nice range of scenes in the rain and the dark night, contrasting against the bright, vibrant but murky night-life moments we see early on. The lanterns on the beach scene I mentioned earlier were a particularly beautiful look, but not enough to save the film. The acting was fine, nothing award-winning, but at least early on in the film I felt for the couple and did care for them. Towards the end, all empathy was gone and I only finished watching hoping for something to redeem it. Nothing came sadly. No idea why Julie Dreyfus was in this. Her character was barely used, and when she appeared for the second time it only added to the confusion.

Well, as you can tell I wasn’t impressed with Vinyan. Reading some other reviews, it seems very ‘love or hate’, with a lot more tending to hate it and score it 1/10. I haven’t been that harsh. However, there are also a few die-hard fans (or they worked on the film) who believe this was the perfect art film which anyone that doesn’t grasp is too foolish to understand such films. Maybe I am foolish, but this gets a generous 3 out of 10 from me. I can’t really recommend it, unless you want to see Emmanuelle Beart naked and involved in the weirdest and just plain wrong ending you have ever seen.

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25 Comments

  1. Victor De Leon

     /  October 2, 2012

    Good write up. I think I’ll pass on this one. Thanks!

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    • Cheers Vic. Yeah not easy writing about this one. There were a couple of times I felt the film was about to kick it up a gear, but it never did so it’s not one I can recommend. But, there will probably be someone reading this that loves it, and I can’t wait to see other opinions 🙂

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      • Victor De Leon

         /  October 2, 2012

        ha! can’t please everyone. I’ve had my share of haters for films I love and vice versa lol.

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        • Yep, thats it, I try and give a reason why I dislike/love something, just hard for films which dont have many redeeming qualities. Hence the bikini photo here 🙂

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  2. Thanks for the great write up. I noticed a lot of people seemed to say that they didn’t mind or even quite liked most of the movie, apart from the last 6 minutes! The ending does not seem to have gone down popular!

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    • Thanks very much! 🙂

      It’s weird, I always write my review, then head around the web trying to find other reviews, and then on IMDB to check other peoples thoughts. I didn’t see much love for it.

      I didn’t hate it, but it builds up and I kept with it, hoping that there would be a good climax, a resolution…..but instead there is a bat shit crazy ending that makes zero sense, and for me that just ruins everything that has gone before it.

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      • I know what you mean, you wait egary for the ending in a film which showed promise, hoping for a great pay-off, only to feel cheated when it comes!

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  3. This is a great write up but I have to admit it’s intrigued me more than anything else. Plus those children are creepy.

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    • I think sometimes a bad film if written up well (by other people I mean, when I read their stuff!) can be very intriguing, but whereas normally I want people to check out films I write about, this time it’s not something I feel many people (if any) would enjoy. That being said, we all like different stuff so I’d love someone who liked this film to give me their thoughts.

      Thanks Misty! 🙂

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  4. Pass. Great review. 🙂

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  5. Critical Dave

     /  October 2, 2012

    Great review! I love how polite you are to what sounds like a mess of a film.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen Rufus Sewell in anything I’ve liked, beyond the (near-perfect) Dark City

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    • Thanks buddy! I try my best and at least give some kind of constructive break down of a film, I mean, pretty much every film has at least one good quality right? Well, maybe not 🙂

      But I just feel there are so many people who hate stuff for the sake of it without giving a valid reason why to back it up. Love or hate something, I never care as long as people give a reason for their thoughts, so that’s what I try and do. I cant be wrong, after all its just my opinion, but I want to try and make it constructive!

      Aside from Dreyfus I’m not keen on any of the casts other work. Although the lead french lady here was pretty hot at times 🙂

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      • I like to think I justify my negativity in reviews of bad movies, but a lot of the time I can’t quite figure out *why* I hate something…”Hanger” was a hard review to write because I really just wanted to say “fuck this movie” 1000 times.

        Also – congrats on the LAMB singup! I’m thinking of applying myself if I get a bigger readership 🙂

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        • Yeah, I struggled to rate this, because there was so much wrong with it, but yet I was strangely waiting and hoping something would happen, and some bits were quite good.

          Cheers on the LAMB, I had no idea (im guessing you saw this on twitter?) I was accepted. Surely it would add more readers to your site? (im hoping it will here eventually) Get your application in! Only took a couple of weeks which is why I was so surprised.

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  6. I quite like the premise behind this – it sounded vaugely interesting to begin with and looks somewhat creepy, but reading on you manage to give what seems like a fair portrayal of the film, be it that it is bad film. As with others, I might just pass here (unless I just so happen to come across it one day, then I might check it out). Like I say, as ever, a nice balanced and fair review from you once again.

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    • That’s the trouble really, the premise sounded good, then I watched the trailer and it was portrayed as a horror/ghost film and I was really looking forward to it. Tricky, as I like to find something good in everything!

      Thanks for the comments buddy.

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  7. I kinda just want to know what happens at the end now. The way you described it, I’m imagining a naked Emmanuelle Beart having sex with an alien while Marlon Brando and his army of little Burmese children hack a cow to pieces.

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  8. I got around to seeing the film earlier today, and after seeing the film I couldn’t agree more with the points you make about the film, and about that ending. Your so right about the ending-I wasn’t expecting it, and it is just plan wrong.

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