With a script influenced (and co-written) by German-American poet and novelist Charles Bukowski, in Crazy Love one would expect a distinctive and peculiar cinematic experience.
The movie opens in a remote village in Belgium where 12-year-old Harry Voss (Geert Hunaert) enjoys a movie at the local cinema. Wide-eyed with an expression filled with awe, Harry allows the moving pictures to take him to a fairy tale world inhabited by a princess and brave knights fighting for her love.
Harry decides that such magic should exist in the world that surrounds him, until an older friend makes fun of the romantic fantasies of the little boy. That’s followed by an improvised sex-ed class diluted with explanations of what “everyone is really after”. The “lessons” are followed by practice sessions as the two friends visit a local amusement park with one goal in mind: a first kiss for Harry and maybe something more. But thing’s don’t go as planned…
The second act of the narrative takes us several years into the future where we see Harry, now played by Josse De Pauw, as a high-school senior. Life has not treated him well as his face (and body) is covered with a horrid case on acne. He has discovered the meaning behind the notion of love, but sharing it is quite another matter. With the third and final act of the film we see Harry as an adult, with a personality shaped by all the experiences and misfortunes of his life.
The three act structure of the story helps to define this Coming-of-Age narrative. Undoubtedly Act 1, focusing on Harry as a boy (with a length of about 30 minutes), is the part of the film that will appeal most to the fans of the Coming-of-Age genre – thanks to the poignant idealistic point of view of the young Harry.
Geert Hunaert’s performance is top notch: from cheerfulness, through shyness, curiosity and awe – his facial expressions make his character true to life and simpatico and easy to associate with.
That’s probably why the events in the second and third acts come across as shocking. On a personal level, I was able to associate with his older self, having chased love — aided by poems and ideals — only to realize that in real life, princesses often choose the brute rather than the knight.
The film’s cinematography impresses with its attention to detail and skillful use of tracking shots and light, used for emphasizing a setting or an emotion. The mood differs in the three acts of the narrative – and the photography morphs to follow. The music accompaniment, both diegetic and non-diegetic, features live performances that not only sound great, but also reflect on and enhance the events on screen.
I am most inclined to recommend the first act of the film, having thoughtfully enjoyed it. Yet I must admit that I was drawn by the entire story and watched the film until the very end despite the shocking nature of some scenes.
Crazy Love is among the most disturbing films I have seen but, at the same time, its narrative — soaked in darkness and tragic beauty — makes it a worthwhile cinematic experience. Recommended!