The Treatment (De Behandeling)
Director – Hans Herbots, Screenplay – Carl Joos, Based on the Novel by Mo Hayder, Producer – Peter Bouckaert, Photography – Frank Van Der Eeden, Music – Kiernan Klaassen, Melcher Meirmans & Chrisnanne Wiegel, Makeup Effects – Rob Hillenbrink, Production Design – Johan Van Essche. Production Company – Eyework Films/Phanta Vision VTM/Het Vlaams Audiovisuel Fonds/Screen Flanders-AO/Het Netherlands Filmfonds/La Wallonie et la Region de la Bruxelles-Capitale/De Belgische Tax Shelter Voor Filmfinancering/Kinepolis Film Distribution/Telnet
Geert Van Rampelberg (Chief Inspector Nick Cafmeyer), Ina Geerts (Commissioner Danni Petit), Johan Van Assche (Ivan Plettinckx), Dominique Van Malder (Roland Claeren), Michael Vergauwen (Chris Gommaer), Ingrid De Vos (Nancy Lammers), Tibo Vandenborre (Alex Simons), Brit Van Hoof (Cindy Simons), Circe Lethem (Iris Kryotos), Roy Aernouts (Bjorn Cafmeyer)
Antwerp police detective Nick Cafmeyer is assigned to a case where an intruder has broken into a family home and abducted the child. This resurrects uncomfortable memories for Nick from his childhood when his brother Bjorn was abducted and the body never found. Ivan Plettinckx, a paedophile living in the neighbourhood who was suspected of the abduction, sends constant notes to Nick, taunting him that he knows what happened to Bjorn. As Nick investigates, he tries to find connections, believing the two child abductors are the same. However, he is warned by his superiors that he is allowing his own personal issues to interfere. As he delves into the country’s underground paedophile ring, Nick realises that he is on the trail of an impotent killer who likes to bite his victims. Moreover, the biter was interrupted and is now planning to attack another family.
This Belgian film is one of the few examples of the modern police procedural to grace cinema screens, a genre that has all but vanished but for isolated examples this side of the 2000s. (Although it is a genre that is still alive and well on tv screens). The film is based on The Treatment (2001), the second book by British crime writer Mo Hayder and featuring her detective hero Jack Caffery. (In the film, the locale has been moved from London to Belgium).
The Treatment delves down into some fairly dark areas – child abductions, underground paedophile rings, child rape. The film is tasteful enough about not depicting this, although one scene where Geert Van Rampelberg watches one of the videos and we get several glimpses of implied child sex is disturbing enough. This, along with the detective hero on a trail to resolve personal demons, is certainly enough to give us a film that delves into a very dark territory. The nearest one can think of in terms of comparison might be the Hollywood film 8MM (1999).
Despite the expectation of a shocking and disturbing film, director Hans Herbots pulls the punches. Rather what the film impresses with is its quietude and detective hero Geert Van Rampelberg’s slowly building obsessiveness. The killer when unveiled is a wonderfully physically loathsome creation. I am not entirely sure I followed the killer’s m.o. and the reasons the film gives for it (although that could be due to watching The Treatment through subtitles). The film also arrives at a particularly chill end coda.