“Empire”- Kristof Hoornaert

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Empire is the 3rd short film by Kristof Hoornaert after Kaïn (2009) and The Fall (2013) and is the final piece in his short film trilogy about the cruelty of human society. This year at the Festival, he is selected in the Vlaamse Fictie 1 (Flemish Fiction 1) after he already got selected for many other filmfestivals around the world, such as Film Fest Ghent, THISS, or Sleepwalkers Festival in Estonia.

Empire is an experimental drama and a visual masterpiece in a real-time plan-sequence shot. Hoornaert himself calls his film a portrait of a modern middle class family. The leading parts are performed by  Ina Geerts (Adem, 2010) and Kris Cuppens (Rundskop/Bullhead, 2011).

The film is very slow, so for example already in the very beginning, where we feel like standing in the middle of the appartment listening to a radio talkshow about the European sushi-hype. This sequence already takes 3 minutes, after which we watch the moher’s back while she’s ironing and we have to listen to a phonecall. This all takes place before there is any ‘action’. In that way, Empire visualises the banalities of life.

The setting is a very cool and modern loft, with several coloured elements that pop out, like the pink little dinosaur on the cupboard, that keeps on catching my attention. It is clear by now, that Empire is more about the auditive, than about the visual aspects, but nonetheless, the simplicity of what you can see adds up to the message Hoornaert wants to convey.

At 5.12pm the father comes in after work and from then onwards, the static camera starts to zoom in on him standing in front of the window. Very slowly. Until he choses to take a drastical life switch -NO SPOILERS! After that the camera zooms in more further to the outside view through the window and we can only hear what he is doing next. Consequently, the audience is fully dependend on its imagination, because of the lack of visual support.

Empire is a Flemish short about the existential crisis of the modern human being ,and the emptiness and loneliness he experiences. In my opinion, because of its visual beauty and simplicity, contrasting with the heavy subject, Empire has the potential to beat the others in the Vlaamse Fictie 1 series. It might go worldwide, which I sincerely hope.

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