— by Jeff Schultz
[Special dispatch from the 27th annual Tromsø International Film Festival]
> A loopy, unique, witty and profound mockumentary, KING OF THE BELGIANS has a far, far-fetched premise that the directors make believable (or at least possible) while weaving in a meditation on Belgium’s sense of itself as a country, its place in Europe, and ultimately, what constitutes “Europe”. The premise is that the King of Belgium is on a state visit to Turkey, when half his country (Wallonia) announces its independence. Unable to return home by plane, the King and his three close aides (and a filmmaker who was documenting the state visit) have a Ulysses-like odyssey making their way back to Brussels.
> The performances couldn’t be better, starting with Peter Van de Begin as the King. He’s physically perfect in the role, graceful and aristocratic, but at the outset somewhat feckless and hemmed in by protocol. The journey changes him into a man able to make the command decision that so delightfully brings matters to an end. As the chief of protocol, Bruno Georis is the Belgian Stanley Tucci (and that’s high praise), and as the filmmaker, Pieter van der Houwen is so convincing, I wondered while watching if he might actually be the director. I would see this again in a heartbeat.