A scene from BULLHEAD, a film by Michael R. Roskam. Picture courtesy Drafthouse Films. All rights reserved.
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Also Known As: Rundskop
Opened: 02/17/2012 Limited
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Trailer: Click for trailer
Genre: Belgian Drama
Rated: R for for some strong violence, language and sexual content.
Young cattle farmer Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts) is approached by an unscrupulous veterinarian to make a shady deal with a notorious beef trader.
But the assassination of a federal policeman and an unexpected confrontation with a mysterious secret from Jacky's past set in motion a chain of events with far-reaching consequences.
Bullhead is an emotionally driven tale of revenge, redemption and fate set against the backdrop of the Belgian bovine hormone mafia. It is an exciting tragedy about fate, lost innocence and friendship, about crime and punishment, but also about conflicting desires and the irreversibility of a man's destiny.
Bullhead is a complex contemporary tragedy with strong comic as well as grotesque elements, typical of my work. The main references for my filmic universe are the Coen brothers, Akira Kurosawa and Quentin Tarantino. It is crucial to understand that the heaviness of this contemporary film noir/tragedy that deals with age-old questions as well as with contemporary issues is balanced against two very strong counter-forces. On the one hand humor, grotesque scenes and dialogues, local settings and dialects, on the other hand the visual aspect of the movie and strong acting performances.
The script is tightly organized around a core idea that is explored in various directions that exceed the literal level: manhood and masculine virtues like courage/ cowardice, hormones and the question of nature/artifice. In this way, a story set in the contemporary environment of the hormones-trade acquires the characteristics of a classical tragedy. The protagonists are driven by Fate or Destiny against which they are to a certain extent powerless. The story is triggered when Fate brings two damaged characters, Jacky and Diederik, back together through their involvement in the illegal hormone trade. It is the chemistry of this accidental meeting that is the inciting incident of the tragic evolution of the film.
The focus is not so much on the psychological development of the characters as on the ethical dilemma's they face: friendship, revenge, betrayal and manhood. Both Jacky and Diederik have clear goals. Jacky's goal is to regain a sense of being a man in the fullest sense of the word. Despite all the hormones he has been taking, he cannot repair what has been taken from him. Unfortunately, the abuse of hormones has affected his personality and turned the hurted little boy into an aggressive 'beast'. After the meeting with Diederik, Jacky tries to recover some of his lost manhood and humanity by going back to Lucia, the girl he fancied when he was still a normal boy. Because of his lack of control, his quest -- like the tragic hero's -- is doomed to fail. Diederik, the antagonist, is not an opponent of Jacky: he is not blamed by Jacky, but he blames himself. Like Jacky, he is also marked by the traumatic events of the past. His goal is that he has to come to terms with his cowardice, even doubled by his father's betrayal and suicide.
Diederik's homosexuality, which is necessarily hidden in the gangster milieu, helps us understand the depth of his feelings for his childhood friend Jacky. All these motivations and emotions are shown rather than explained.
-- Michael R. Roskam