Synopsis: Charlotte is a young doctor living in Brussels with her husband, Max, and their son. She leads a normal, harmonious life – except for the fact that she secretly maintains an apartment where she has sex with her patients, selecting them as if setting up a scientific experiment. When Max finds out about this unusual situation, their relationship is put to the test.
eyelights: its character study. its atmosphere. its photography. its locations.
eyesores: its opacity.
“I’m here with you, now. Why can’t be enough?”
Charlotte is an esteemed medical doctor, researcher and lecturer. Though she is in a relationship with Max, with whom she has a son, Benjamin, she has secretly rented out an apartment, to which she invites some of the hospital patients for sexual encounters.
One day, she encounters one those men on a construction site where Max works. For seemingly no reason whatsoever, she becomes hysterical and attacks the man – and then passes out. When she wakes up, the lid has been lifted on her many infidelities.
Can she pick up the broken pieces of her life?
‘Brownian Movement’, which is so named after the theory of Brownian motion, is a Dutch motion picture that explores the currents that carry Charlotte through her life and the impact that this had on her professional and family life. It’s a quiet character study.
In fact, the picture is so contemplative that dialogue is concentrated mostly on the sessions that Charlotte has with a therapist after her incident; this is where some of her layers are revealed to the audience – and frequently with no small amount of reserve.
Charlotte either doesn’t know why she does what she does, or she doesn’t know how to express it. This is bewildering to Max, who is dutifully trying to work things out with her, and is unforgivable to the medical association, who see in her unrepentance.
Her quiet self-reflections translate into lengthy, atmospheric scenes of her watching, waiting, and basking in experiences. One gets a sense of internal peace, of general happiness with her home and professional life; there’s nothing driving her to other men.
At least, nothing noticeable to the naked eye.
If anything, one gets the impression that it’s the researcher in her that leads her to pick up men, men who are radically different from Max, the handsome and satisfying lover; she is curious about and fascinated with their physical differences. She studies them.
‘Brownian Movement’ basks in tranquility, and even the camera remains still, preferring to capture the moments without artificial (e)motion. Thankfully, the photography captures the eye, with most shots fit to print. The locations used here are truly beautiful.
Interestingly, most of the architecture and decors chosen as setting for the picture were spare, tasteful and clean, contributing to the feeling of serenity that washes over the proceedings. Come to think of it, it likely echoes much of Charlotte’s inner life.
Some people will consider the picture pretentious artsy fare, but I was quite taken with it – especially until Charlotte’s motives were partly unveiled. I was very curious to understand why this contented woman was doing the things she did, finding balance in it.
Afterwards, the usual melodrama came up, with Max’s understandable distrust and her professional troubles, but through it all Charlotte remained at peace and content with the direction life was taking her. There was a very zen quality about her that I quite enjoyed.
Though everyone in the picture was concerned with her ways, for some reason I wasn’t. I saw in Charlotte an experiential individual whose openness to life lead her into an alternate lifestyle. Her only transgression, in my estimation, was her infidelity to Max.
To me, this should have been discussed, not hidden away. Though she is right in telling Max that the only thing that matters is that she’s with him, that she chose him, she did profound damage to his trust and their relationship by keeping this secret from him.
Sex with strangers isn’t the issue, here; it’s the breaking of their vows to each other that is.
Still, ‘Brownian Movement’ is a very interesting character study of someone whose choices are circumstantial and, thus, become unconventional. Charlotte doesn’t swim against the currents, allowing them to take her to new places, new experiences, and with new people.
And, in this, she centers herself.
There is risk in that way of being. But there is also beauty. Frankly, I could never be that kind of person, being too much of a willful individual, but I do respect this – especially if it fosters happiness. If one is resilient or adaptable enough it can work.
It’s one way of being.
For some, it’s the only way.
Date of viewing: May 21, 2017