Flemish filmmaker Bas Devos's ode to grief plays like a Larry Clark film as imagined by Chris Marker. Devos is fond of chiaroscuro close-ups, abstract compositions, and disorienting sound design. His debut opens with a security guard watching teenagers in a shopping mall by way of closed-circuit television. While he steps away, presumably to make another cup of tea, two teens beat a third one to death before splitting the scene.
Devos then narrows his gaze to Jesse (César De Sutter), the pretty blond who just lost a friend for no apparent reason. Once he gets over the shock, Jesse returns to his suburban life of BMX bike riding, billboard sign maintenance, and black metal showgoing—he attends a concert by Deafheaven where they play a song called "Violet"—but he isn't invested in any of it. He's alienated from his friends, his family—himself.
I'm not sure Devos's avant garde style suits the slight story, but the film grew on me after awhile because of some especially otherworldly scenes, like bikers flying through a mossy forest or a little boy riding his bike through a golden-hued street at dusk. Then there's the ending, in which cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis reveals himself as Violet's true star, gliding through Jesse's fog-enshrouded neighborhood, seeing all and revealing nothing.
Violet plays this weekend at Northwest Film Forum. See Movie Times for more information.