Brussels, an asphalt jungle where occasionally nature is allowed to take its course. For some, the city is a one-of-a-kind melting pot, for others a "hellhole" - an insult that filmmaker Bas Devos appropriated and answered in his 2019 film of the same name. That same year, with Ghost Tropic, he told a mesmerising nocturnal odyssey of a woman in the Belgian capital who has fallen asleep on the metro and has to make her way home on foot. That Brussels is much more than rotting concrete buildings and men in tailored suits in the European headquarters, Devos proves once again with Here, a surprisingly bucolic ode to those who live nearly invisible lives. Devos' fourth feature won the prize for the best film in the Encounters competitive section at the Berlinale.
Stefan is a soft-spoken construction worker in Brussels about to leave for his homeland Romania, perhaps even for good. Before heading east in his rundown car, he has a few things to take care of during the first days of construction leave. Including emptying his fridge. With litres of homade vegetable soup to offer, he strolls through a summery Brussels in his purple-pink shorts. Day and night, given his insomnia. He donates his soup and his time to family, friends and chance encounters. It all amounts to a humanistic city symphony with green fingers, filled with recognisable humour and an impending romance. Stefan crosses paths with Shuxiu, a Belgian-Chinese bryologist devoting her PhD to mosses. "What you are holding in your hand is a micro-forest", the young researcher tells Stefan as they examine the moss in one of the forests near the city together.
Inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer's book Gathering Moss, Devos uses moss, a low plant species that we rarely really notice, as a symbol for those who exist in invisibility and are ignored or even crushed by society. DoP Grimm Vandekerckhove captures it all in aesthetic tableaux that appreciate the beauty of the ordinary. As tactile and patient as Chantal Akerman's films and as wonderfully minimalist as Hong Sang-soo's, Bas Devos unfolds a miracle: that of the connection between people (and nature).
Stefan Gota, Liyo Gong
Imagine Film Distribution
Dutch, French, Chinese, Romanian