Between February 2003 and May 2004 I had the chance to introduce movies to a crowd of students. Noone believed it could be done (at least not more than once), but in total there were 30 movies shown and introduced by me. From better known films (Requiem for a Dream, Fucking Amal, Ghost in the Shell) to the more obscure (The Company of Wolves and B. Monkey were both seen by one person), the list contained weird features one wouldn’t believe one could see in a school building (be it after hours). And yes, why shouldn’t one combine Requiem for a Dream (2001) with The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (1916)? Or show “Tesis” with a few scenes from “Snuff” during my introduction?
Some films never made it to the final 30: amongst them “Quien Puede Matar A Un Nino?” (Spanish without subtitles… bit too diffucult), “The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue” (one zombie movie per season was enough) and Thomas est amoureux. Mainly because of the tagline “the doctor ordered cybersex” and the first scene (cybersex) which would be shown around the time most teachers would leave the vicinity (I was already under fire for showing too much horror…).
Which is a shame because “Thomas est amoureux” is definitely part of Belgium’s film history. Not because it did exceptionally well (I believe 0.1% to 0.3% of the Belgians saw it at the cinema), but because the movie was shown on a cinema site a week before it opened. It was a Tuesday night, around 8pm and if you were online you could watch the streaming of this film (totally ‘gratis’!).
It’s still relatively unknown… it’s rarely shown on tv (once on a Dutch channel well after midnight, once in Wallonia around 9pm) and the ugly DVD isn’t something people would like to buy.
“Thomas est amoureux”, contrary to what’s said on the DVD or how it was marketed to the Dutch audience (when shown on tv), is not a sex movie. Yes, it does start with a cybersex scene. Yes, there’s more sex later in the film. Still, one wouldn’t say “The French Connection” is a movie about cars.
So what is the film about? It’s about Thomas, who is extremely agoraphobic. He communicates with the outer world via his computer. He never leaves his place and noone is allowed to visit him.
As a viewer, you’ll see what Thomas sees: whatever happens on his computer.
“Thomas est amoureux” is futuristic, but it is quite clever: the virtual world looks very virtual. Most movie aim for realism, with the result that the movie is already old-fashioned by the time is released. Which is why the penguin in “Fight Club” is still relevant now, whereas “Men in Black” is famous for being out of time by the time it was released on video/DVD.
All the settings from “Thomas est amoureux” look totally unreal, but as there is always an actor present in this weird setting you’re willing to accept it.
Being from Belgium, I know how hard it is for a filmmaker to raise money for your film. Most movies are made for budgets a beggar would complain about. The only exceptions are usually tacky family movies with our biggest comedians or movie adaptations of overly promoted kids tv. “Alias”, a Belgian thriller (I’d say giallo), was made for a ludicrous amount of 2.5 million Euro. Most films are allowed to cost 1 million at most.
With that knowledge, it’s amazing to watch “Thomas est amoureux”. How can a movie, made for a shoe-string budget, look so nice?
Each director will have to put up a exhausting fight to get his next film made. It’ll often take 5 years before a next film can be made. “Thomas est amoureux” was Pierre-Paul Renders’s first film (in 2000) after a short in 1992. His second feature, “Comme Tout Le Monde” will be made in 2006.
“Thomas est amoureux” isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a very exceptional film. It’s hard to think of other movies that’ll fall into this category. And if you’ll think of the shoe-string budget it was made for, you’ll love it even more.