The Fifth Season


In just three films, the Belgian/American duo Peter Brosens & Jessica WoodWorth has built a surprisingly haunting body of work, each of their movies focusing on the relationship between man and nature, which they explore through a naturalistic and surrealist lens.

After visiting a couple distant desolated locations – Mongolia in Khadak and Peru in Altiplano – the screenwriters/directors head back home, setting up their new entry in their hometown and using locals as their cast.

The Fifth Season opens with two key scenes, which will trigger a series of unexpected, dramatic events: The first thing that you will notice is that there is a man living in the church, making us assume that there is no god in this town – and in this movie. In a following sequence, which reinforces this feeling, we watch the townsfolk’s as they go through a pagan ritual, a bonfire designed to celebrate the end of winter and the return of spring. Things however don’t go as planned; mysteriously, they are not able to light the fire and, as a result, spring will never come.

As the film slowly unfolds, we witness what seems to be Nature’s vengeance against the town, from cows not making milk to fishes dying and snow falling in summer. The consequences will be even fiercer on humans who will turn against each other and will look for a scapegoat. While we will never find out why Nature decided to punish them, the script seems to point out that humans are just taking natural resources for granted, abusing them disrespectfully; the fact that they are pagan might also explain why they have been abandoned by God who doesn’t protect them anymore.

Exploring the bound between Nature, Man and Beliefs is what seems to motivate the two filmmakers and this third film is their best effort yet, which says a lot knowing how fascinating their two previous efforts were.

What’s amazing about The Fifth Season is that they were able to surpass Mongolia and Peru’s stunning landscapes by simply staying home. This remote Belgian mountain town provides gorgeous locations that seem to have been created for mystic purpose, from the quarry to the lone tree on top of the hill. Mr. Brosens and Ms. WoodWorth use all those places as symbols, meticulously capturing them as if they were paintings by Flemish masters. While Nature is the central character of the story, this doesn’t mean that humans were sacrificed in the process, the screenwriters brushing a pretty bare, realistic portrait of people living in such places –performances by the professional and amateur cast are solid and stripped.

With its mix of realism, naturalism and symbolism, The Fifth Season is a singular work, which distills the essence of several influent filmmakers, Werner Herzog (Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo), Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, Holy Mountain) and Bruno Dumont (Outside Satan, Flanders) coming to mind. From start to finish, Mr. Brosens and Ms. WoodWorth envelop you in their cinema, which is beautiful, poetic and cruel, masterfully delivering commentary through art.

Director: Peter Brosens, Jessica WoodWorth – Actors: Aurelia Poirier, Django Schrevens – Running Time: 1:33 – Year: 2012 – Country: Belgiun

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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.