In the land of Magritte and surrealism — Belgian helmer Alain Berliner reminds us in “The Wall” — anything can happen on the eve of the year 2000, even the overnight erection of a wall between the country’s bickering Flemish and French-speaking sides. This hourlong entry in the Collection 2000 series is basically a one-joke production overwhelmed by a political tract as heavy as cement. Though pic is good as a quickie lesson on Belgian social tensions, one might have expected a better developed and more comic result from the director of the critically acclaimed hit “Ma vie en rose.” Euro TV will be its main market.
Albert (Daniel Hanssens) is the popular owner of a take-out French fry joint positioned exactly on Belgium’s “linguistic border” He’s from the French side, but speaks both lingoes. On the eve of the millennium, the authorities decide to solve the problem for once and for all by putting up their own Berlin Wall — which cuts Albert’s stand in half.
Padding the tale without adding much is the “surreal” ghost of Albert’s long-dead father (Mil Seghers), who palely materializes at inconvenient moments, like when his son is bedding a sweet Flemish girl (Pascale Bal). Their inter-linguistic romance naturally complicates matters when they have to choose which side of the wall to live on.
Berliner is obviously anguished at his countrymen’s absurd division; by pushing it to its ultimate conclusion — Nazi-like paramilitary forces rounding up citizens — “The Wall” brings home the gravity of the problem. But story develops with the obviousness of a comic book, losing the audience’s interest as soon as it becomes apparent what the bulldozers and men in yellow suits are up to.
Cinematographer Yves Cape opts for a hard-edged look of unnatural colors that reinforces the idea of strangeness and alienation.