Last night, New York’s Museum of Modern Art in association with Flanders House, Jane Rosenthal and Tribeca Film hosted a screening of the powerful Oscar Nominated film The Broken Circle Breakdown. It was followed by Q&A with director Felix Van Groeningen and lead actress Veerle Baetens.
The film, which is nominated in the Best Foreign Film category at this year’s 86th Annual Academy Awards, is currently on a press/promo tour in support of its nomination. The host even took time to thank many of the Academy voters in attendance, who would be watching the film for the first time.
The movie is a very powerful and affecting love story told in a non-linear and highly captivating way, with two incredible performances from Groeningen as well as Johan Heldenbergh and Nell Cattrysse (who plays the couple’s daughter). What really set this film apart is its music, with the two lead characters being musicians in a band. The band the couple is a part of in the movie is now a real life band aptly titled “The Broken Circle Breakdown Bluegrass Band.” Although the movie takes place in Belgium and is in Flemish Dutch, the Bluegrass music is all in good ol’ country English.
In fact, the movie is almost equal parts Flemish as it is American with the main character, Diedre played by Heldenberg being obsessed with Bluegrass music and America in general. One of the often melancholy film’s best and most fun scenes is the first meeting between the couple. Diedre explains to the tattoo laced Elsie, played by Baetens, that something that means the most to him is his interest in America and its music and culture of dreamers. Really enough can’t be said about the music in the film. In fact, the success of the movie and the music from it was heavily responsible for the sudden rise in popularity of Bluegrass within the country.
However it’s not really a film about music or a music scene in the way that 2013’s Cohen brothers directed Inside Lewyn Davis was. This is a film about a couple who’s life is turned upside down by the sickness of their 7 year old daughter played by Cattrysse, who was arguably as good as any under 10 year old dramatic acting star to come along in recent years. This is a movie that will stick with you, some may even understandably find it to be a bit too morose, but similar to last year’s – no happy endings here – Fruitvale Station, this film will do something to you.
During the post film Q&A, which was hosted by Mike Hogan of Vanity Fair, director Groening mentioned that it has now become a misconception that there was a big bluegrass scene in Belgium, saying that there are only 4 bands and one of them is the one in the film. Veerle Baetens joked that the film’s soundtrack, which in many ways is The Broken Circle Breakdown Band’s first album, came out around the same time as Veerle Baetens’ own band Dallas. The band actually toured in 2013 and will continue to tour again in 2014, which Baetens mentioned worked well as promotion for the movie.
Some other highlights from the Q&A are below! *spoiler alert*
Moderator: It’s a dark story, did you ever feel daunted by it? Here in the US, we like to get a happy ending, one of the great things about European films is they don’t feel the need for that.
Felix Groeningen: It kind of is a European Happy Ending! (followed by laughter)
Veerle Baetens: No, because I like that, I like watching movies and crying, I like sad endings and I like playing these characters that go through a lot. I think for an actress that’s the tempting thing, you know not to be shallow, but to go into a lot of depth and try and figure it out… I think it’s well balanced actually, but I do admit I like the bittersweet symphony of life and it’s well represented in this movie.
Moderator: Let’s talk about the tattoos, those aren’t your actual tattoos?
Moderator: So there’s nothing important enough for you to (a reference to something in the movie)?
Baetens: That’s not it, I’m just scared.
Although we can’t speak for every film in the category, The Broken Circle Breakdown has our vote for the Oscars! Tune in March 2nd to see if the film can take it home. The film is currently playing in select cities and specifically at the Quad Cinemas in New York City, so go see this incredible movie, just make sure you bring your Kleenex.