2 January 2021

Fabrice Du Welz's Adoration (2019)


Fabrice Du Welz's Adoration essentially concerns two young people: the twelve-year-old Paul (Thomas Gioria) and the slightly older Gloria (Fantine Harduin), who is a dangerous paranoid patient at the remote psychiatric hospital in Belgium where Paul's mother works, and where she has sworn that her son will have no involvement with the patients.

Paul seems a little odd in some ways, possibly slightly autistic, although his mother is odd too: she asks him, for instance, if Paul finds Gloria prettier than her. In any case Paul, bored by his seclusion in the woods where the hospital is, is obviously smitten by this powerful and inefffable creature that is Gloria, and will not listen to his mother's or the staff's concerns about him having anything to do with her.

Nevertheless Paul – an extremely gentle young man who cries on learning of the death of a chaffinch he has freed from netting, and knows about the habits of barn owls (birds are important in this film) – runs away with Gloria, and (very inventively) she tells him of the imprisonment she is suffering from her uncle who is after her money. Gloria pushes Dr Loisel (Gwendolyn Gourenec) down the stairs to her death and the two escape.

And it's a precarious escape with Paul and Gloria living on berries and anything they can steal from places. Gloria wants to go to a house in Brittany (4000 miles away), so Paul (completely smitten by this increasingly maniacal, beautiful creature) is game for it.

Their run includes train-hopping Belgian-style, finding a houseboat where the owners have their faith in them and Gloria burns their home down because she thinks they're snake-eyed pigs, and all the time, even as she's drawing more dependent on and closer to Paul, the more she behaves violently towards him.

Towards the end, after being knocked out by his amoureuse on a rowing boat with an outboard motor that they've found, Paul finds himself in the riverside home of Hinkel (Benoît Poelvoorde), a man who has a huge tatoo of a grey heron on his back, and for years has visited the grey herons nearby, the monogamous grey herons living where he hears the voice of his dead wife and communicates with her. No, he's not mad and Paul puts his arm round him. While Gloria is still sleeping, Hinkel tries to fish the true story from Paul as he knows Gloria is very sick. He gets Paul to play the three-egg game with him, and in so doing finds the phone number of Paul's mother.

Gloria – who has been growing increasingly paranoid about hens and her uncle (and Hinkel has hens) – instructs Paul to kill the man. He doesn't, but as Hinkel is driving them away Gloria strangles him, Paul and a bloodied Gloria crawl from the car and continue going somewhere (or nowhere) in the boat, faithful herons flying ahead.

This is quite a movie.

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