From the first animation motion creators to the famous Dardenne brothers, the cinema of this country has covered the social problems of last century in Europe.
Joseph Plateau’s ‘phenakistiscope’
They don’t have the distinction but one could call the Belgians ‘the pioneers of cinema’. It is well known that the Lumiere brothers are categorized as the seventh art parents but a Belgian physician stepped first on creating moving images in the 19th century late years. The scientific was Joseph Plateau, a man with a flair for experimenting with optical objects. One of his adventures led him to invent the ‘phenakistiscope’, a gadget which created a movement illusion from a sequence of images.
Since Plateau gave birth his innovative creation, a lot has passed through the rolls of Belgian cinema. In the 30s, some intrepid writers and members of the cultural elite decided to establish the basis for the film industry in their country. Thus, directors such as Charles Dekeukeleire and Henri Storck founded the Belgian Documentary School.
The effort taken by the adventurers was reflected on their productions. The first Dekeukeleire film (Combat de Boxe) was a box fight based on a Paul Werrie’s poem and was amazingly recorded on his own bedroom. Time later he filmed Impatience, a short film which flirted with the futurism and is known as his masterpiece.
From literature to cinema
From the times of the Documentary School, the Belgian cinema has its roots on literature, a trademark in its productions. Beginning with the Werrie’s poem adaptation, the big screen has also witnessed Ernest Claes’ De Witte, which was a box office success and a reference point until our days, arriving on the TV in a drama series.
The Lion of Flanders of Hendrik Conscience was also adapted to the cinema in 1985 with an ambitious production but unfortunate failure. Furthermore, Willem Elsschot’s works have been torn into films lately.
Thanks to the government support from the mid 60s, a new generation of directors like André Delvaux and Harry Kümel began to build a promising career. The characteristics of that cinema and its directors were rural stories and its daily dramas, alongside with the industrial progress.
However, it wasn’t until the last century’s decade when the Belgian cinema was internationally recognized in different film festivals where were awarded. Among the most prominent are Jaco Van Dormael’s Toto the Hero, winner at Cannes and the Cesar Awards, and the Dardenne Brothers’ Rosetta, which was also awarded with a Gold Palm at Cannes. Everybody Famous! by the Dardenne brothers was nominated in the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film in 2000.
The Dardenne Brothers
The Dardenne brothers were precisely those who took the cinema of Belgium to fame in the late years. Jean-Pierre and Luc, the former graduated in dramatic arts and the latter in philosophy, have become a point of reference when it comes to the cinema of their country. Both, with a witty look to their country’s society, have reflected in their blockbusters the problems and social differences in modern Europe.
Beyond their attractive film proposes with subjects as migration, poverty, addictions and revenge, they have been the first Belgium directors to win a Golden Palm in the exigent Cannes Film Festival. Among their most prominent productions are Rosetta, The Son and The Child.
Besides their outstanding experience in film festivals and their successful projects, some actors and directors are worldwide renowned not precisely for their background or appearance in Belgian movies. Among them, the most popular are the Hollywood action movies superstar Jean Claude Van Damme, and a group of little and curious blue characters: The Smurfs.