Nicolas III looks out into nature into this often amusing mockumentary featureBO FILMS

Belgium – “proper country or geopolitical compromise”? That is the question fictional King Nicolas III is asking himself in this witty mockumentary from directors Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth.

“The road trip is a cocktail of bizarre moments”

The set-up is this: whilst on a diplomatic mission to Turkey, a dispute between the Walloons and the Flemings has split Belgium in two. Unable to return home via plane due to a solar storm, the King and his diplomats, plus a promotional documentarian they have hired, must make their way back through the Balkans. The King, known as “silent Nicolas” by his detractors, is repressed and nervous but attempting to portray, on the instruction of his wife, a “controlled spontaneity” to Duncan Lloyd, the documentarian.

The gangly, stick-like Peter Van den Begin is the perfect choice for the part, representing the (sorry!) impotence of the Belgian monarchy and the style of stifled, suited bureaucracy one expects in the upper echelons of the EU. Having ignored the advice of the Turkish authorities, the group set off on their own. Despite the efforts of diplomats Louise (Lucie Debay) and Ludovic (Bruno Georis), who has been advised to show his “smiles”, the truth about his insecurity is slowly revealed.

Trailer for King of the BelgiansYOUTUBE

The road trip is a cocktail of bizarre moments, the group variously having to disguise themselves as the florally attired “Black Sea Sirens” choir, take part as judges in a yoghurt making competition, and procure an ambulance for transport (the latter of these almost Borat-like in its silliness).


Mountain View

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At one point, Louise asks if this is the film-maker’s version of The Odyssey, a comparison which gets at the fantastical craziness of the journey. It does feel almost unreal, particularly when the group chance upon an old acquaintance of Duncan’s who just randomly walks out of the bushes.

The inclusion of the documentarian’s own story could have pushed the film off the rails, but Dragan (an ex-Soviet sniper about whom he made a film years ago) instead presents an interesting counterpoint to Nicolas’s repression, and is a necessary adventure on his path of self-discovery. The tone never veers into meanness and the conclusion is touching. Whether Belgium will endure is left unresolved, but Nicolas, quietly transformed by the end, certainly will

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