57th Chicago International Film Festival – Nobody Needs To Know – International Competition | The Weekly of Time
Nobody Has To Know is an elegiac poem from a movie that takes you to the heart and doesn’t let go. Bouli Lanners plays the dark and amnesiac Phil Haubin, a transplanted Belgian wandering the windswept shores of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland in search of clues to his confused past, which vanish like so many Footprints in the massive sand dunes surrounding it.
Multiple tattoos, engraved like landmarks on a globe, are scattered over her body. He looks at them in a mirror, as if hoping that their sight will somehow disturb his memory and reveal their mystery. In the end, they only offer cryptic clues.
Cinematographer Frank Van Den Eeden, under the direction of Tim Mielants, captures thoughtful images of the vast rugged coastline of the Isles of Lewis and Harry in the rugged Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The images are straight out of a landscape painting by Horatio McCulloch. They add to the grim sense of loss, loneliness and isolation in this meticulously executed film.
Despite his imposing figure, Phil seems systematically eclipsed by the immensity that surrounds him. It is symbolic of the staging of his psyche.
Bouli Lanners wrote, directed and starred in this French, Belgian and British entry in the International Competition of the 57th Chicago International Film Festival. There are English subtitles, but after a few minutes it’s not entirely difficult to adjust to the actor’s thick Scottish brogue. I certainly heard enough about it growing up in an ethnically diverse city like Chicago.
For 99 minutes, Landers takes the audience on the excruciating emotional journey of Phil, a Belgian farm worker, a fish out of water, whose work as a farm worker resembles that of Sisyphus in Greek mythology. He works under the critical and unwavering eye of Angus McPherson (Guest Star, veteran actor Julian Glover), a curious figure who ends up warming up to Phil due to his innate sense of decency. It’s one of the things that rings true throughout the movie. It’s the fact that Phil may have lost his memory, at least temporarily, he hasn’t lost sight of who he is as a basically decent and honest human being.
After his stroke, Phil quickly meets Millie McPherson (Michelle Fairley-Game of Thrones), who poses as an old friend. She also informs him that she is the daughter of her boss, Angus, and the relative of her colleagues Brian, who is her nephew, and Peter, her brother. I don’t know about you, but this shoe would be a tight fit under any circumstance!
She finally drops the bombshell that she and Phil were secret lovers before he had his stroke.
As Phil recovers his memory, he gleans the truth. Now he must decide whether the benefits of lying outweigh the fact of the lie itself.
Lanners delivers a beautifully crafted film, with emotional revelations revealing themselves as shards of the sun breaking through the Isle of Lewis fog.
The composition of the plan is impeccable. For example, near the beginning of the film, we hear the local minister give a sermon on the Crucifixion of Christ. “The evil of my old me, and I, the old me, I don’t live anymore,” his voice intones as the camera flies over the windswept dunes, to reveal a motionless, unconscious Phil.
Thus, Lanners succinctly establishes the premise of the story.
The sparse score of the original music by Pascal Humbert and the title song “Nobody Has To Know”, performed by Spain, add to the atmospheric vibe of this heartfelt film.
Nobody Has To Know is scheduled for another in-person screening at AMC River East this Friday, October 22 at 5:45 p.m. CDT and virtually through October 24. Visit chicagofilmfestival.com.