Fabrice du Welz’s 2004 film Calvaire will enjoy a brief return to the big screen before releasing digitally in March. This is big news for fans of New French Extremity, because Calvaire is considered a classic in the sub-genre.
While films such as High Tension, Them, Frontier(s), Inside and Martyrs are considered to be the best-loved (though it seems strange to use a word like “love” when talking about French Extremity films), Calvaire definitely has a place at that particular table. French Extremity typically involves extreme violence and gore, torture and sexual assault, and Calvaire ticks off all of those boxes.
Guillermo Del Toro referred to the film as “A lucid nightmare”, and went on the say that “Calvaire’s meditation on identity, possession and cruelty remains horribly vivid.”
Marc (Laurent Lucas) is a traveling musician whose van breaks down while he is navigating a mountainous region. Stranded in the woods and freezing, Marc is taken in by an innkeeper who claims to be a retired entertainer himself.
Calvaire has the earmarks of French Extremity
Though at first, Mr. Bartel (Jackie Berroyer) seems friendly enough, he soon seems to become unnaturally obsessed with Marc, warning him away from the nearby town, and rifling through his belongings. This being French Extremity, it gets far worse, and Marc finds himself held captive.
Calvaire has been remastered, and was shown as part of Brooklyn’s Horror Film Festival in October of 2022. In its original incarnation, the film received several awards, including Amsterdam’s Grand Prize of European Fantasy Film in Silver, and the International Critics Award, Premiere Award and Special Jury Prize at 2005’s Gerardmer Film Festival.
Fabrice du Welz went on to create two more films in what would become known as his Ardennes Trilogy: Alleluia in 2014, and Adoration in 2019.
Calvaire will open in select theaters beginning February 24th, and will be available on digital platforms beginning March 3. A collector’s edition Blu-ray from Yellow Veil Pictures will be released in the near future.
Are you a fan of French Extremity? Have you seen Calvaire, and if not, will you see it at a theater near you? Sound off in the comments section.