A very interesting work that sprang out of Belgium two years ago is a little film called “Bo” (2010) directed by Hans Herbots. My introduction to this work was through a Danish rock band named “The Raveonettes” and their remake of The Stone Roses’ hit “I wanna be adored” which features parts of the film.
Telling the tale of a 15 year-old girl (beautifully played by Ella-June Henrard in her cinematic debut), very economically deprived, who finds her way into the world of escorts which quickly becomes prostitution. Through a school acquaintance, she tries to get rid of her financial problems and lives to suffer the consequences.
Sure the film follows a somewhat classical approach to the subject of the ‘ poor girl who prostitutes herself’, think Brook Shields in “Pretty Baby” (1978, dir. Louis Malle), but it delivers a very nuanced aesthetic work. Through blue-lit close-ups on Henrard’s gorgeously seductive face, Herbots attempts a certain intimacy (but not identification) with the main character, named Deborah/Bo but at the same time distanciation.
Her relationship to her “pimp”, Vincent (played by Thomas Ryckewaert, who looks a little like a young version of Klaus Kinski) goes from sentimental to detrimental, same as her rapport to her family which ultimately gets sacrificed.
Time is represented through shots of Antwerp’s left bank scenery along with the name of the month which offer a very interesting panorama of the Flemish town.
I tend to not be fond, to say the least, of moralizing films or ones that end up reinforcing the social order by means of crime and punishment but “Bo”, in a way, overtakes this notion by adopting a much more poetic tone. It focuses on the character’s loss of innocence and yet, her ever-present beauty throughout the story.
It would be erroneous to compare “Bo” with “Christiane F” (1981, dir Uli Edel), since the latter puts forth a whole mechanism of testimony in an almost documentary fashion which Hans Herbots does not play out, nor do these films share same aesthetics or political references.
“Bo” is an interesting film to watch, especially for a closer look at Henrard’s beautifully rendered face. She does indeed shine in her debut role and has more than enough potential to deliver serious work. As well as this, it would be unfair to limit Belgian cinema to big names like Chantale Akerman, as impressive as she may be, because after all, opting for a panorama of a country’s production is, to me, substantially more interesting than going through masterpieces alone…
NB- For another interesting Flemish film, check out my little post about “Loft” https://kinoimages.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/loft-2008-belgium/
Written by Hanine H aka Kinofrau