Johan Heldenbergh

Broken Circle Breakdown

The stage can be a magical and cathartic place where artists express themselves and connect with an audience, but sometimes it’s difficult to leave your real life off stage to become the performer your audience came to see. Many films have tackled this subject, whether through fictional narratives of made up bands or by recounting the lives of famous artists, but The Broken Circle Breakdown takes things one step further to showcase the music just as much as those performing it. Living in Belgium, Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) and Elise (Veerle Baetens) do not seem like two people who would be into American bluegrass music, but when Didier invites Elise to come check out a local bluegrass band with him, and Elise realizes Didier is in the band, she falls in love with more than just the music. The bluegrass music of the The Broken Circle Breakdown is never restricted to the stage, with the music bleeding into Didier and Elise’s life as much as their life bleeds into their performances on stage. The music doesn’t merely accent a scene or help to drive the emotion, it becomes a part of Didier and Elise and follows them through the highs and lows of their relationship.

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review broken circle breakdown

Watching two musicians performing onstage who are truly, deeply, madly in love is a rare and wonderful thing. At a concert I attended last spring, I witnessed a professional musician completely miss his entrance into a song because he was so transfixed in watching his partner sing. It was a surprisingly moving moment that transcended the supposedly calculated public-ness of stage performance – a room full of people witnessed a genuine encounter of real emotional intimacy. The Belgian import The Broken Circle Breakdown creates a moment like this early on in the form of a predictable yet tender on-stage kiss between the two leads in the initial chapters of their relationship. It’s a simple and brief moment, yet it’s integral for a film like this to work. Despite the risk of seeming cliché, we have to believe that this public moment shared onstage matches the intimacy we’ve witnessed thus far in the couple’s private life. And it does work, so well in fact that it almost supports the whole film. As the central couple endures a devastating rollercoaster of a relationship, knowledge of their chemistry and love is essential for the film’s melodrama to feel both warranted and affecting. Imbued with palpable sincerity by writer-director Felix Van Groeningen and performed convincingly by Johan Heldenbergh as banjo player Didier and Veerle Baetens as tattoo artist-turned-singer Elise, The Broken Circle Breakdown is a human drama of incredible intimacy whose episodic journey through life’s ups and downs is accompanied by some really outstanding […]

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Broken Circle Breakdown

Abiding love, cowboy hats, singing duos and tempestuous relationship drama — it’s not hard to compare The Broken Circle Breakdown to Walk The Line. Except that it’s Belgium’s entry for the Oscars this year. The film from Felix Van Groeningen focuses on a pair (Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh) who fall in love at first sight, enjoy some clashes of character and then struggle through their daughter’s illness. It was picked up by Tribeca Film for theaters near you after a stellar festival run and is currently reveling in popularity (alongside its bluegrass soundtrack) throughout Europe. Check out the prestige-filled trailer for yourself:

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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