Wil (110 minutes, MA15+)
This Flemish film is not for those with a weak constitution. It's full of violence - beatings and torture and shootings and suicides. And the story, based on a book by Jeroen Olyslaegers, is a dark and morally complicated one, set in Nazi-occupied Antwerp during World War II.
The title character is Wilfried Wils (Stef Aerts), a young, newly trained auxiliary police officer. He's also an artist, but painting evidently doesn't pay much. Wil and his colleagues are thrust into the unrest between the locals and the Nazis and persecution of the Jewish residents by both. It's a challenging environment and one that will become increasingly fraught.
One night, Wil and fellow policeman Lode (Matteo Simoni) are ordered to escort a German soldier to a house whose Jewish occupants "refused to work".
What's going on exactly is unclear - soldiers normally travel in pairs so this is unusual - but they're soon caught up in a deadly situation and Wil kills the soldier to save Lode's life.
They hide the corpse in a utility hole but when Wil returns to dispose of it permanently, it's gone.
Lode and his family - especially his intense sister Yvette (Annelore Crollet) - have regarded Wil warily but trust eventually builds. He is invited to join a resistance movement and starts an intimate relationship with Yvette.
But Wil is no saint. His artistic ambitions are supported by a wealthy Nazi collaborator whose motives for doing so are a little unclear, and as the persecution of Jews escalates, he's hard-pressed to minimise his involvement as the police join townsfolk in the beating and rounding up of men, women and children.
What happened to the soldier's corpse is eventually revealed and what results presents another challenge for Wil.
Elements of this film are familiar but it's a well-made, well-acted tale that like other stories set during the Nazi regime, poses uncomfortable moral questions. Whether or not the extreme violence is gratuitous or underlines the horror is up to individual viewers; occasionally to me it seemed a little excessive.
It's easy to judge people harshly with the benefit of hindsight and from safety, harder to confront how we would act if we lived at such a time and in such a place. While such issues are far from novel, they remain important.
Wil's protagonist is neither a hero nor a villain, nor does the film present his story as a simple, inexorable descent from virtuousness to villainy. He does good things while also doing bad things and sometimes the latter help him accomplish the former.
Occasionally events and the motives of Wil and others seem a little opaque. But this never reaches the point where what happens is completely baffling and, of course, we can't and don't know everything about anyone. The performances are good all round; there's a feeling of harsh reality.
Interestingly, the film is presented in 1:33 aspect ratio, the "Academy" format. It evokes the era in which the film is set and focuses audience attention squarely on what's taking place.
Oddly, the title on the English-language Netflix data is Will, but onscreen and elsewhere it's Wil.