Recently there’s been a growing number of grim, very well made, neo noir/thriller/crime films coming out of Scandinavia and Dutch/German regions. The films are often extreme but not in a exploitative way. They’re just harder edged and more fearless than their American counterparts. Take the Treatment for instance. In tone and in style it’s very similar to the very dark Prisoners, which I had trouble watching due to the child-in-peril plot. The Treatment goes much farther in that regard and honestly I almost didn’t finish it because of how nasty it is.
The Treatment is a Belgian film about a detective who is investigating a serial child rapist/murderer. The detective’s younger brother was abducted by a pedophile and was never found and this is also integral to the plot. He’s a driven man, trying to stop another child from being harmed and at the same time goes down a rabbit hole trying to find out what happened to his brother.
I almost didn’t finish the film because of the subject matter. I don’t like children in peril and children at the mercy of a sexual predator is just too much for me. The film is very well made, the pacing great, the acting great, it’s well written and shot. It’s a great film on a technical level but it goes too far for me. I won’t spoil it for anyone who wants to take the dive but it’s just too graphic for me. A quote on the back of the box uses the word repellant and it’s an apt description of the film, and yet the film is so well made and got me so involved I finished it despite it’s repellant plot. I know things like this are real and they actually exist and that’s what makes the film so tough. Other over the top extreme films can be easily dismissed as disgusting exploitative garbage but since this film doesn’t feature cannibals, zombies, nazis or any other cartoonish device often implemented to grab a buck but instead presents the details in a totally realistic way it becomes much more difficult to sit through. It reveals a terrible world that we all know exists on the underbelly of our society but choose to ignore because looking right at it is truly soul crushing. Which is preciously what this film is.
I can’t in good conscience recommend The Treatment to everyone. If you like your thrillers grim and the subject matter doesn’t push your buttons, you’ll probably like the film though I still hesitate to say you’ll enjoy watching it. The film tries to ride the edge of what the viewer will sit through and for me it went over the cliff. It’s a nasty piece of work but it was supposed to be.