Belgium and the Netherlands have somehow always understood each other. It might seem we’d resent our southern neighbors because of the countless Dutch jokes featuring some dumb Belgian. But beneath this farce hostility rests a deep, mutual understanding between our two countries, which probably seems inexplicable to outsiders. This is nowhere better indicated than in the latest release of the film The Loft.
An erotic thriller, the story of The Loft centers around five friends, all of them married, who purchase a single loft to undetectably indulge in extramarital exploits. This racy state of affairs (slight pun intended) is halted when the mutilated body of one of the mistresses is found handcuffed to the bed. Only the quintet is in possession of keys to the loft and the narrative thus turns into a pseudo–psychological whodunit mystery. The original Belgian release back in 2008 was considered to be the most successful Belgian film of all time after which a Dutch remake followed. Erik van Looy (the director of the original) decided to share his masterly vision of the male psyche with an international audience through an American remake. This latest effort was met with another stirring reception, one it truly deserved:
Populated with characters as unpleasant as its sleazy storyline, The Loft is uninhabitable for all but the least demanding erotic thriller fans” reads the critic’s consensus at Rotten Tomatoes with a whopping 11% to top it all off.
The film met with by far the worst critical reception of 2015 so far, with critics panning the direction, writing, acting and, above all, the overstuffed plot which, after a number of twists, becomes downright nonsense. International critics pan the film’s ‘sleazy’ and ‘odious’ execution and names as James Marsden or Wentworth Miller don’t keep the characters from being ‘unlikeable’ or even ‘despicable’, uttering laughable lines. Although it’s possible that the nuanced allure which captivated Dutch and Belgian audiences could have gotten lost in (Google) translation. However, the premise seems to be about a male fantasy gone horribly wrong and the movie itself doesn’t seem to provide any commentary on the infidelity of the five men. It doesn’t set out to be a cautionary tale, or one of retribution. Even the female characters are one-dimensional, being either blonde mistresses or shrewd brunette wives. This misogynistic outlook would make any audience become totally indifferent to who among the men could have committed the crime, and you’d probably find yourself wishing the loft would just explode with all the five men in it.
How then, could the very same scenario have charmed and intrigued Dutch and Belgian audiences? Is the mutual understanding and collective taste between the Belgian and Dutch at all understandable for outsiders? What of this concept could have been the cause of its phenomenal reception in Belgium and adopted notability in the Netherlands? Is there more room for understanding sleek adulterous douchebags in our respective societies? The film’s success could have been in it being a commentary or satire on, rather than a symptom of our societies. Alas, to an international audience this could have been our, or just Belgium’s, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Let the Right One In. Hell, this even could have been our Oldboy. Instead, this will be another The Vanishing.