The rise of the modern noir seems to be going from strength to strength. On the back of the success of some very dark television and cinema dramas coming from the Nordic countries, the rest of Europe has taken up the mantle and started to produce some quality films that use the same gloominess and foreboding but add a stamp of local authenticity to their output. From Belgium comes The Treatment (De Behandeling), an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Mo Hayder.
On the face of it Nick Cafmeyer (Geert Van Rampelberg) has it all. Good looking confident police investigator who is good at his job and is popular among his colleagues. In private he is something else. At the age of nine his brother was abducted while out playing and Nick has struggled to come to terms with it ever since. The primary suspect in the disappearance was subsequently cleared by the authorities but Nick still believes he was involved. The fact that the man still taunts Nick at every turn does nothing for his mental stability. At work, he is presented with a home invasion case where the family was tortured for several days before the son was murdered. As the case unfolds all the childhood memories return to Nick and he must try to detach his work and his private life in the search for the person behind the crimes.
With The Treatment it’s all about the atmosphere. Each location is chosen with care to add to the overall sense of foreboding. The initial scenes are in the house that Nick has lived since he was a child. It is dark and pretty uncomfortable looking. There appears to be no sanctuary from the outside world here. The house is a ray of light compared to the other locations. The preliminary crime scene is filthy. Animal blood adorns the wall and the rooms are in a terrible state. There are hints of rituals and Satanism in the daubing on the walls and the audience can almost feel the fetid atmosphere. These visuals lead onto equally depressing surroundings as the investigation progresses. It is like a descent into some sort of hell with Nick being the object of all the attention.
The lead performance from Rampelberg really plays off the surroundings. At the beginning as his mas starts to slip he appears to be just about in control. As the case leads him towards similar areas, he experienced while looking into his brother’s disappearance he begins to unravel. His whole demeanour changes and he can barely control fits of rage. The effect on those around him tells what a shock it is to them as well. There are points within the story where he could snap totally and completely derail the investigation. It is only the guidance of his immediate boss that stops this from happening.
With all the current media coverage surrounding historic child abuse claims, the film is especially relevant today. It shows the problems that the police face in investigating these crimes with so many obstacles put in their way. It also takes a look into the psyche of the abusers as we see several scenes of another family in the same situation. The film does not make judgements or excuses for the perpetrators. That is reserved for the audience to decide.
Overall, a dark and intense thriller. Recommended.