Friday, September 6, 2019

IN BRUGES (Martin McDonagh, 2008, UK)

IN BRUGES is a Hieronymus Bosch triptych: three characters caught in a static loop unable to escape the Garden Of Earthly Delights. After Ray bungles his first contract by accidentally killing a child, he and his mentor Ken are sent to Bruges to await their next assignment. Ken is deeply moved by the city’s peace and tranquility while Ray is impatient and frantic with boredom: Heaven and Hell is a matter of perspective.

Writer/Director Martin McDonagh has created a deeply philosophical film that (I believe) has been mostly misunderstood: this is not just a wise cracking, slick talking PULP FICTION style comedy! McDonagh explores beliefs in Theistic Existentialism and Buddhism because the characters are brought to a turning point in their lives…by their own hands. They also hold the key to their own salvation but keep repeating the same destructive behaviors. And it’s fate that ultimately brings the three together. Bruges is an allegorical Purgatory, an inescapable dreamlike place that exists between worlds where the three characters are trapped by their own rigid moral codes and ideals.

As the violent drama nears its bloody climax, Ray, Ken, and Harry are each given a chance to redeem themselves but ultimately fail. I imagine this story playing out for all eternity (think GROUNDHOG DAY) until one is able to change and attain enlightenment: Ken almost achieves Nirvana by self-sacrifice but he also remains embedded in Samsara. The labyrinthine canals are like the city’s veins, the people it’s flesh, and the crumbling ancient structures its bone. The tower provides an omniscient view of the city and points the way towards salvation while the mysterious caverns lurk somewhere below the park while the suffering happens in-between. The film does not spare the brutality and gore and devours the characters like some demented Boschian nightmare.