Monday, February 25, 2008


After watching In Bruges (pronounced "brooj"), I felt like catching the next flight to Bruges, a place whose name I had not heard two hours before. It has been slotted as the most intact medieval city in Belgium, and I have to say I have not seen anything like it. Nor have I seen a movie like In Bruges.

In "In Bruges", Bruges (now didn't that sound laboured?) becomes a temporary home for two contract killers. I cannot say I would want to meet a contract killer anytime in my life, but I would hazard a guess that killer Ken played by Brendan Gleeson may be the kindest and most sympathetic contract killer ever, if there can be anything like that. That doesn't stop him from killing though. But he is just a little more likely to shed a tear than, say, Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old men.

Together with his restless and gloomy friend Ray (Colin Farrell), Ken has taken a respite in Bruges from a killing gone wrong. He and Ray have been instructed by their mafia boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes in a role that he clearly relishes) to take a break in Bruges. Have a fun time in Bruges, Harry says. In Bruges. "In fucking Bruges??", asks Ray. Why not the Bahamas? Clearly Ray is despondent in Bruges. Ken on the other hand shrugs, buys a guidebook and enjoys Bruges from the top of a famous tower. This is not exactly a vacation; Ray had another killing to do, a killing which went terribly wrong and which sets off a chain of events that combine unexpected comedy and the best of dark morbidity. At times you don't know whether to laugh or cry.

This is one of those movies whose plot really shouldn't be given away because it's utterly unpredictable till the end. It is one of the darkest comedies I have seen, perfectly accentuated by the fact that Ken and Ray are Irish and display that kind of detached amusement, so that Colin Farrell can be himself. Adding some more comic tragedy to the movie are a midget and an unusually interesting and pretty woman named Chloe, about the only thing that can cure boredom in Bruges. Bruges is indeed beautiful. And yet, seen through the eyes of the protagonists, it often seems miserably lonely. The arbiter of their fates is Harry, a man who exudes comical casual cruelty. At times, you feel that you are being swallowed by Bruges and you need to join Ken and Ray for some scotch; that may be the only thing that could keep you from killing yourself.

In Bruges is quite tragic, and it's utterly funny. It may be one of the few movies where you can sympathize with contract killers. Even they deserve something better than Bruges. Or perhaps not.



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