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By Phil Hall | May 27, 2007

Bruno Dumont’s “Flanders” is something you don’t see everyday: a decidedly non-sentimental love story. French farmboy Andre (burly in body, limited in vocabulary, indifferent to his surroundings) has a relationship going with Barbe (equally limited in vocabulary, but willing to flash her beaver for a quick bit of haystack-supported in-and-out). Andre gets called up for military service and leaves his dull farming village with nary a regret. Of course, he also leaves Barbe, who is left to wait for him while he is off fighting some agitated foe in some distant land (the battle scenes were shot in Tunisia).

As screen lovers go, Andre and Barbe are minimalist to the nth degree. It would appear their main channel of communication is telepathy, as they rarely exchange any words or overt signs of emotion. Yet the chemistry between actors Samuel Boidin and Adelaide Leroux (both nonprofessionals) is so strong that one gets the feeling of a long-standing union that developed its own secret code language. And, let’s face it, young lovers in an isolated rural town wouldn’t be falling over themselves in passionate displays of flowerly language and purple emotion.

Dumont’s film is clearly not for everyone – the pacing is, admittedly, on the slow side and it takes a while to get into the groove of the unlikely main characters. But once you’ve connected to its off-beat vibe, the result is a memorable and highly original experience.

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