Generatie B: Back to the "non-future"
- A new Belgian TV series written by Pieter Van Hees and Joos Vandescateele is taking part in the Perspective/A Band Apart section of the 46th International Film Festival Rotterdam
In the not-too-distant future, in a Brussels increasingly crippled by unemployment and gripped by fear, we are introduced to young Jonas, a wanderer who is also wallowing in the depths of economic and emotional turmoil. This is the storyline of the TV series Generatie B, comprising six episodes – three of which were presented at the 46th International Film Festival Rotterdam – in which absurdity reigns, reflected by a painfully truthful backdrop in which thousands of young adults mill around, trapped between failed loves, demonstrations and oppressive parents.
However, the programme’s overriding tones are those of light comedy, a quick-fire succession of inappropriate dialogues, which poke fun at the prevailing bureaucracy, people’s fear of ISIS and Arabs (despite the fact that Brussels is the most Arab city in Europe – the main character wears a T-shirt emblazoned with the motto “I love Molenbeek”), and the general absence of any meaning to life, which one can only escape from by shouldering a shotgun loaded with sweat, just to quote one of the movie’s many metaphors.
In Belgium, bleak nihilism does not tend to last long, as there is a long tradition of countering it with black humour: we only need think of the unforgettable Man Bites Dog or the more recent Kill Me Please [+see also:
film profile]. And so Jonas drifts through his life – a life transformed, at least for the thirty-somethings of the lower-middle class, into a pattern of “graduation followed by call centre followed by job insecurity”. In fact, one does not have to work too hard to catch a glimpse of oneself in the bespectacled protagonist, the target of that most outdated and overused of epithets, “Harry Potter”, just to kick-start the clichés.
We thus observe the sheer tragedy of a ridiculous, cynical generation, incapable of reacting: everything is brazenly ridiculed, and nothing escapes derision: terrorism, armed combat, politics, those eternally despised family lunches (the patriarch, Godfried, just happens to resemble the Belgian prime minister) and the mass media. Despite the fact that we are thrust into a dystopian future, this time period is built up in rather a contemporary way, and the protagonists’ look is convincing, for all their faults. Their idiosyncrasies, despite being a little over the top, are also credible.
Where the production falls down (although it’s true that only the first three episodes were shown at Rotterdam) is perhaps in its originality, apart from the fact that it is a Belgian Flemish-language TV series, if that can indeed be considered an innovation. In some of the gags, the comedy lapses into a particularly mean type of humour (a similar style to Charlie Hebdo, which is honoured in one brief scene, ribbing the “Je suis Charlie” slogan), a choice that the authors intended to be liberating, but which instead achieves the opposite effect, putting a dampener on proceedings – and all in the name of trying to be politically incorrect, which seems to be all the rage in this “non-future”.
The complete series, produced by De Menten, will be broadcast on the Canvas channel.
(Translated from Italian)
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