By Rebecca Rowson
Director: Hans Herbots
Ugly and unsettling, The Treatment explores some of the most horrific crimes that are committed. Thankfully, the clinical treatment of the issue prevents the film from blurring the line between revealing and exploitative, and holds your attention throughout the rightfully disturbing plot twists.
Based on Mo Hayder’s British crime novel, Hans Herbots’ adaptation follows Nick (Geert Van Rampelberg), a police investigator who finds that a new case is dredging up details from his past. When he was a child, his brother was kidnapped and the case was never solved. Now he finds himself tormented by a local paedophile, who was a suspect and questioned in his brother’s case, but never convicted. This serves as an ever-present reminder of his past, which is aggravated by the new case involving parallels he cannot ignore. This sets Nick off on the hunt for answers, and his investigation opens up truths, both past and present, that are deeply unnerving.
The parents of the currently missing child tell stories of the ordeal that don’t quite add up, and we are made aware, before our protagonist, of the real reason for this. With this and the other revelations along the way, the film doesn’t skirt around the horrific details involved in the cases – for instance, the crashing realisation of what the title of the film refers to. This makes for a difficult watch, but is also to its credit as it is done with such finesse. Were the film not so controlled and sharp, such scenes may have been gratuitous. Instead, we get a picture that conveys the reality of what’s going on; it’s brutal because it needs to be. The camerawork moves from quick cuts to longer shots that often rest at a distance from the action, making for added tension. However, at no point is the filmmaking a distraction from the narrative, which is so shocking in itself that little more is needed in order to emote.
Van Rampelberg authentically carries the film. He marks a balance between the respected investigator persona he carries, and a man coming to the edge, having lived with a tragedy since childhood. We can see his imbalances coming to the surface every now and then, for example when he overreacts and takes personally a jib from the father of the recent abductee, who himself has just been through unimaginable trauma. This does not seem out of character, as Van Rampelberg constructs a character that blurs the personal with the professional. Later in the film, Nick and the father come into contact again, and the father tells Nick “˜I hope this happens to you one day’. The irony is not lost on the audience, and it makes it all the more sinister.
There is not just one victim, nor one villain. There are despicable characters and despicable acts, and this seems to unsettle the audience more – it plays as a commentary on what actually goes on in the world. As such, the film unsettles just as much after it’s over. Although all the loose ends are tied up by the end of the film, it doesn’t feel satisfyingly conclusive; it’s an unease necessary in the aftermath of having experienced such brutal scenes.
Read our interview with director Hans Herbots here.
Watch The Treatment on FilmDoo.com. (UK & Ireland only)