REVIEW: Dood van een schaduw [Death of a Shadow] [2012]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 20 minutes | Release Date: 2012 (Belgium)
Studio: Serendipity films
Director(s): Tom Van Avermaet
Writer(s): Tom Van Avermaet

“I could show you the true beauty of death”

Inside an intriguing steampunk dimension just outside the realm of our own lives a collector of shadows (Peter van den Eede) whose museum looks as though owned by a devout Robert Longo aficionado. Grungy canvasses line his walls with silhouetted bodies contorted into myriad positions at the time their flesh and blood counterparts’ died. This creepy sunglass-wearing gentleman employs one of his works of art to be a photographer of sorts that immortalizes each priceless moment on the edge between life and death. After 10,000 days and 10,000 images he will let this slave return to our plane for life anew, but few ever make it that far.

Nathan Rijckx (Matthias Schoenaerts), however, isn’t like the collector’s previous reapers. Driven by the love of a woman named Sarah (Laura Verlinden) who tried to help him the morning he was killed by German soldiers during World War I, he sifts through the names of the soon-to-be deceased and exits the sanctuary to snap their photos and inch closer to redemption. With but three entries left to capture, he is about to be freed so he may find the woman of his dreams after years of purgatorial isolation. But when the last two casualties expose the truth of Sarah’s compassion, he must dig deep inside himself to discover whose happiness had really been driving him.

The brainchild of Flemish writer/director Tom Van Avermaet, Dood van een schaduw [Death of a Shadow] is a work of impressive production value and unique artistic vision. Schoenaerts adds his capacity for emotional resonance with sharp eyes softening at love’s power against the clinical bleakness of a hallway littered by darkened images of the damned. His is the shining light of humanity inside a dimension only allowed to glimpse shadows of our world unless viewing through the gorgeously constructed camera used as a tool to earn back his independence. But just as it permanently steals these shadows for a strange madmen devoured by the beauty of death, seeing Sarah and the helpless soldier Daniel (Benjamin Ramon) through it reminds Rijckx what it meant to be alive.

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