More impenetrable is Neuvaine / Novena (1984), another longer short that has two threads: a troubled seminary student sent away to do penance for nine days, and a filmmaker who checks in to the same seminary to write his latest work. Both storylines quickly blur into the observations of the writer’s constant stream of thoughts, and Smolders intercuts a girl, possibly from the writer’s past, and the seminary’s cook who serves him soup each day. The narration is ongoing yet slow and measured, and sometimes it becomes a vicious attack towards a character.
In the case of the cook, while the writer eats his soup, he mentally reduces the older woman to an odiferous wretch, and plots an imaginary torment that Smolders accentuates by holding his camera on the woman’s disturbingly blank face, and dead, underlit eye sockets. It’s the short’s most effective scene, whereas the most revolting involves a pig dragged into the tiled bathing quarters, and killed on site with on-camera bloodletting. —kqek.com
Born in 1956 in Léopoldville (former Belgian Congo), Olivier Smolders completed his studies in Belgium. A graduate in Roman Philology (UCL) and lecturer at the University of Liège, he also teaches at INSAS (the Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle), the Brussels film school. He has written and produced his own short films via his own production company, Les Films du Scarabée.
He is currently one of the most innovative figures in cinematic – particularly Belgian, but also experimental – circles. The author of various books on literature and the cinema, he has also written numerous articles that have been published in different journals and magazines. His work as filmmaker, sustained by his background in literature, confronts text with image in a way that that challenges our perceptions. Cultivating all kinds of discrepancy, his films, dosed with derision, have about them a whiff of the “fantasy film”, in which domain Nuit Noire, his first full-length feature, would… read more