Review: The Treatment (2014)

A dark story of redemption, anger and pain. A truly difficult watch, but one that will definitely leave a mark.

A few years ago in an interview with Peter Bouckaert of the production company Eyeworks, Carl Joos was asked a hypothetical question about screenwriting. If he could pick any book to adapt into a movie script, which would it be? Without hesitation, his answer was The Treatment, written by British psychological thriller writer Mo Hayder in 2001. His reasoning for this choice was “it was the feeling it left me with when I turned the last page.” Going on to say that adapting this movie, with its intricate relationships and various plotlines would be a tough but rewarding challenge. Well, a few years later Joos got his wish and worked alongside Hans Herbots to create De Behandeling (The Treatment), which hit cinemas on January 29, 2014, across Flanders and Brussels.

The Treatment is a movie about secrets and redemption, following the life of Police inspector Nick Cafmeyer played by Greet Van Rampelberg. Nick is smart, handsome and very successful in his career but although he may seem the ordinary man on the outside, he harbours a dark secret that has haunted him since he was a young boy. Since the tender age of nine, Nick has been troubled by the suspicious disappearance of his younger brother, Bjorn (Roy Aernouts). Police dealing with the disappearance arrest and question a local man Ivan Plettinckx (Johan Van Assche) who is a known sex offender and lives close by. Once Pettinckx is released due to a lack of evidence, he takes the chance to gain twisted pleasure from tormenting Nick, over the years. One day, Nick is alerted to a case that is reminiscent of his past in an all too familiar fashion; a nine-year-old boy is missing. This sends Nick on a search for the man responsible, turning into an intense manhunt.

The film begins with a letter being read by Nick, and it teaches you what happened to Nick and his brother Bjorn in their youths which flows slowly and delicately. The letter is interrupted and the films flow changes entirely, to a much faster pace. It throws you straight in the deep-end and gives you no chance to catch up, but with good effect, mirroring the thought patterns of the main character. The movie then follows Nick as he is dispatched to a crime scene; the scene hits Nick hard and he immediately starts to make connections between the scene in front of him and the events of his past. Thus begins his journey to find the man responsible for this despicable crime.

Let me start by complimenting the way in which this film has been adapted onto the big screen. Each scene is set up superbly, with lighting and sounds tailored to best embody the themes and mood of the novel, which in turn gives the actors something to latch onto to enhance their performances. The most impressive aspects of this movie are the cinematography, direction and adaptation of the script. Because of the risky subject matter each scene is shot in a way to filter the audience from seeing the worst, placing actors in certain positions and using clever lighting, although some scenes with risky matter still need to be shown, some of these scenes are dealt with carefully and respectfully, and make them easier to witness despite what is being depicted. They have used clever angles to omit the worst from sight, but leave the script intact so that you can clearly put the picture together.

The cast were a breath of fresh air, especially the performance of Van Rampelberg who played Nick; he was able to take me on the journey with him and I felt his pain, determination and need for finality and redemption. I didn’t feel as if his emotions were false, and if anything, felt like a bystander witnessing the events of the film unfold before me. Nick is a character you feel for, right down to the core, you root for him and you understand everything he is doing and why, because of all he has experienced. He is a lovely character, and I would have picked none better to play him than Van Rampelberg. The supporting cast held their own, too, perfectly embodying the roles of traumatised victims and sick individuals.

The tricky part of this movie is the subject matter. It is truly one of the darkest police movies I have ever seen, handling hard-to-watch issues like paedophilia, rape and murder, so it really is a tough one to stomach. But if you think you can handle all of that, it is one of the movies of its kind and I urge you to watch it. The plot of the movie is convoluted, but the director does a superb job of keeping on top of it without losing the audience. It is full of twists and turns and will keep you on the edge of your seat in a disturbed sense of fascination, but you will need a strong stomach as it will be a very painful experience, hence the reason I could not give the film top marks. It truly is a sickening tale and one that you cannot take lightly. Watch it at your own discretion, and only then if you have a strong stomach.

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