'The Treatment' ('De Behandeling'): Montreal Review

Courtesy of The World Film Festival Montreal
A harrowing thriller that doesn't skimp on repellent detail

Police procedurals don't get much darker than this

MONTREAL — A procedural thriller in which pedophilia is front and center, Hans Herbots's The Treatment is about as ugly as a mystery can be before it must be called exploitative. Not content to imagine one rapist's serial crimes, it envisions a "pedophile network" enabling him, then gives the case to a haunted detective whose own brother vanished in childhood, likely a victim of similar acts. Unflinching (though not gory or exactly explicit) in its depiction of crime scenes and evidence, the Belgian film will be too much for some viewers but does have potential as an import, partly thanks to intricacies and false leads that remain a puzzle until nearly the end.

Geert Van Rampelberg plays Nick Cafmeyer, who decades after losing his brother (the body was never found) continues to be taunted by the aging neighbor who was a suspect but couldn't be convicted. Seemingly unworried that the lawman will turn vigilante, Ivan Plettinckx (Johan van Assche) sneaks around his house at night, leaving him notes that offer contradictory, boasting accounts of what he did to the boy.

So even more than most of us would, Nick takes it personally when his latest investigation involves a murdered child who was repeatedly raped for days while his parents were shackled nearby. All signs point toward this happening again if the killer isn't found, while markings at the scene hint at psychological motives that are stranger even than simple pedophilia.

As Nick follows clues, both with fellow cops and without their knowledge, the movie offers us leads of our own, introducing some obvious creeps who may be the perpetrator, his enablers or just unfortunate social outcasts. Herbots and screenwriter Carl Joos aren't gentle in their depiction of mental illness and trauma here, playing up cliches about sweaty, inarticulate strangers; Nick is similarly ready to leap to conclusions. But Van Rampelberg's intensity pulls us along through the character's false steps, while parallel scenes show the rapist's latest plot moving agonizingly toward completion. The truth is more horrible even than any of the detectives expect, and The Treatment has no intention of making it easy to hear.

Production company: Eyeworks

Cast: Geert van Rampelberg, Ina Geerts, Johan Van Assche, Laura Verlinden, Roel Swanenberg, Ingrid De Vos

Director: Hans Herbots

Screenwriter: Carl Joos

Based on the novel by Mo Hayder

Producer: Peter Bouckaert

Director of photography: Frank Van Den Eeden  

Production designer: Johan Van Essche

Costume designer: Nathalie Leborgne

Editor: Philippe Ravoet

Music: Kieran Klaassen, Melcher Meirmans, Chrisnanne Wiegel

Sales: Be For Films

No rating, 130 minutes

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