Tuesday, January 29, 2008

De zaak Alzheimer (2003) aKa The Memory Of A Killer

De zaak alzheimer or The Alzheimer Case (released in the US as Memory of a Killer) is a crime thriller that (it should not come as a big surprise) is chiefly concerned with memory. The genius of this story is that it is not only about one person’s memory, but also about a nation’s collective memory as well as the use of memory in crime investigation. It all starts off simple enough; Vincke (De Bouw) and Verstuyft (De Smedt) are two police partners in 1995 Antwerp, Belgium. They are confronted with several seemingly unconnected murders, except for the fact that the method of killing seems to have been the same. Could there be a connection?

The trail leads to the aging contract killer Angelo Ledda (Decleir), who wants to get out of the business because he has the developing symptoms of the memory-plaguing Alzheimer’s disease; not really the ideal disease for a job for which such precision and concentration is required. He has agreed to one last job killing two people in his native Belgium, but turns against his patron when he discovers one of them is a 13-year-old child. His own memories and motives for being a killer somehow seem to start to haunt him now.

The homonymous novel by Jef Geeraerts on which the story is based was first published in the 1980s, but the film version of the story takes places in 1995. Since one of the victims is a child who was prostituted by her own father (who seems to be part of a child prostitution ring), the story seems to predict the happenings of the infamous Dutroux case, which was discovered in 1996, though Dutroux’s abduction and abuse of children was already well underway in 1995. The fine line between fact and fiction seem to have been purposefully blurred by the filmmakers. The memories of the viewer familiar with the case will be reminded of it whilst watching the film, much as Ledda ("as in the swan but with two ds") is troubled by his own memories (or lack of them) during his last job. Memory will also be a decisive factor once a case will be before a judge; because witnesses' accounts all come from memory, and how reliable is that memory really?

Director Erik Van Looy and his co-writer Carl Joos are clearly more interested in the history, politics and characters of this fictional story than in its pure crime drama aspects, though this is also neatly resolved in the end. The focus however remains always on the characters and on the environment in which they move. Politicians, high placed judges and police-officers that do not seem to have a clean conscience, conflicts of interest between rivalling police-departments and the human qualities of the not-so-standard duo of Vincke and Verstuyft lend much added weight and value to this thriller. The dynamic duo is also surprisingly funny.

Van Looy is a master at creating atmosphere and De zaak Alzheimer reminds one of the best work of David "Seven" Fincher, in which a visual style and atmosphere is always prominent but nevertheless secondary to a good story inhabited by believable characters. Which studio will be so brave as to extend Van Looy an invitation to work his magic on a big budget crime thriller from Hollywood? Surely the troubles of Belgium cannot be so specific to that country as to be wholly inapplicable to the United States or indeed any other country? This critic wants more of these social-political crime thrillers! by Boyd van Hoeij

Torrent: here
Subs: English and Dutch included

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