Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I don't know very much about the production history of Alias. I know the film is from Belgium, but being a semi-obscure film from Belgium the intimate details are hard to come by. I have a strong suspicion, however, that the production started life as a TV series, and then the whole thing was derailed and made into a film.

Why do I suspect that? Well, for the first hour, we have a film that builds. Characters are steadily introduced, the central mystery is laid out, and we're kept guessing as to the true nature of a key character. That character is Dieter, played by Geert Hunaerts, who by the power of his amazing buttocks attracts the attention of Eva, played by Hilde De Baerdemaeker. Eva, either coincidentally or not coincidentally - that's part of the mystery! - has just witnessed and filmed the suicide and/or murder of some naked lady. Also filmed are two bumbling thieves breaking into a car, in a subplot that doesn't really go anywhere, though it does serve to give thunder butt a way to introduce himself, through the power of gratuitous violence. Anyway, Eva and her friend Patti (Veerle Dobbelaere) begin to examine the tape to see what was going on, while Eva becomes attracted to Dieter and his bum and we wonder how he is connected to the suicide of the sexy lady. Also present is Mark (Werner De Smedt) who is played as somewhat emotionally abusive yet is also almost a hero in a bizarre end twist.

For that first hour, we get some fairly standard pilot material for a serialized storyline. A mystery is introduced, we get some flashy over-designed opening credits - a TV staple - and a number of characters and relationships are established in the early going. It's standard fare for a pilot really, and it does do a passable job of making one curious about the central mystery. Then, after the opening hour is complete, in the space of a single cut all mystery is discarded. What happens is we move from getting a story that slowly develops and a potentially compelling mystery into everyone's motivations laid bare and the entire storyline explained in a serious of info dumps. One can see that someone was instructed that, oh crap, it's a movie now, we have 47 minutes left, time to wrap it up.

It's a pacing disaster, characters are changed from complex to cardboard cutouts, and the ending is clearly rushed. The worst part is, I could see it coming, because it became increasingly obvious that the pace could no longer be sustained, and also from the editing to the visual style, this was always meant to be a TV show.

Would it have been a good TV show? Well, I'm not sure. It wasn't extremely compelling, I'll be honest. On the other hand, there are a couple pretty good moments in there, and one wonders how they might have gone in a more serialized approach. There's a bathroom scene that's having a grand old time pulling tricks on the audience, and there's one simply masterful comedic touch. When one character is being pitched as the major psycho, the scene immediately after is that character gleefully singing "Rose Garden" while driving. It's possibly the most amusing cut that there has ever been in a middle of the road thriller.

There are some other odd things here. There's a shocking cliffhanger twist ending that might have made for a second season of the TV show once the mystery was solved, but here just arrives without explanation and is fairly stupid. It does foreshadowing by ripping off more famous characters in better movies by more famous directors - Norman Bates has ensured that loving one's mother too much will always be seen as a touch creepy. Worst of all for a thriller, it just doesn't pack much punch.

I don't know if I'm completely right about the TV show origins, but it does explain the flaws and the inconsistencies of the film. It also makes one wish that the pilot would have just been picked up. That way, things could have been developed in a proper fashion, and more importantly, I could have watched something else. It's a win-win situation.

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