Director: Bouli Lanners
Screenplay: Bouli Lanners
Touted by many as the best Belgian film of 2008, writer-director-actor Bouli Lanners’ Eldorado had me laughing within the film’s initial opening minutes. When Yvan (Bouli Lanners) returns home from a business trip to find a burglar hiding under his bed, he demands that the intruder come out. The burglar promptly refuses. Yvan’s anger escalates: he stomps, he shouts, he argues with the intruder beneath the bed, but all to no effect. The man just won’t budge. Fast forward to the morning, and Yvan has fallen asleep in a chair, still waiting for the burglar to show himself. Assuming that the coast is clear, the burglar scurries out from beneath the bed, but Yvan awakes and throws a heavy steel pipe at the man as he flees. The pipe strikes the man, knocking him down the stairs and injuring him. From this point on, Yvan takes on a sweet yet humorous sympathy for the young burglar called Didier (played to a T by Fabrice Adde), feeling guilty no doubt for throwing the heavy pipe at him in the first place. The relationship between Didier and Yvan quickly progresses and soon Didier has talked Yvan into driving him to see his parents, who live near the French border.
As far as feature films go, Eldorado is a short one, clocking in at a mere 80 minutes. Yet for what it manages to accomplish in those 80 minutes, the film certainly deserves all the praise it has received. For his part, Lanners had his work cut out for him: creating a credible bond between Yvan and Didier, who in addition to being a burglar is also a junkie, is no easy task. But Lanners pulls it off with effortless aplomb, mostly because the idea that Yvan is befriending a burglar/junkie; giving him food, money and driving him to see his parents, quickly evolves in to an understanding that Yvan needs Didier just as much as Didier seems to need Yvan. As a result, that bond between the two is so enjoyable and flecked with such an understated innocence ,that becoming lost in its genuine nature is quite effortless.
Eldorado carries with it the notion of salvation and as the film progresses, this subtext gains in weight and importance. It’s rather crucial to take this in to consideration throughout the course of the film, though Lanners keeps the concept just low key enough as to avoid crowding out the humor of the central story line. The film does end rather abruptly (albeit suitably abrupt for this type of story), leaving the viewer to reflect on what they’ve just seen. If the salvation subtext is ignored, I can see why the ending could potentially annoy viewers, making them feel that no real resolution has been achieved. This simply isn’t the case however, and the ending should be chalked up to yet another powerfully minimalistic aspect of Lanners’ superbly sweet and melancholic filmmaking.