Scorching the Retinas – We

Setting the Retinas upon Another Artsploitation Feature

We (2018)
The Netherlands

Artspolitation - We

Writer/Director – Rene Eller (based on the novel “Wij” by Elvis Peeters)
Runtime – 100 minutes
Pragmatic Pictures
NL Film funds Production Incentive
VAF Film

Faced with an email with the words “controversial”, “European” (which could possibly mean subtitles; admittedly my weakness), heavily edited for general consumption (I’m paraphrasing here) and “bored teenagers” plastered across it, I’ll admit my attention grew to rabid heights. Strange then that this isn’t a feature described as drenched in grue, brimming over with head kicks or exhibiting an overall nature which most would deem bizarre, for wont of a better term. Rather this, if I’m to believe the accompanying text, is a film which showcases eight bored teens and the antics they get up to during a long summer. Now, I can only imagine what this might entail. Having once been a teenager myself my mind races with all the uncomfortable occurrences, embarrassing situations, strange emotions and changes my own form went through, not to mention the myriad of (lets just call them) “naughty” thoughts which would take up residence in my skull often over-riding those, which looking back, made considerably more sense. It’s an interesting couple of years, for most involved, to state the least. And I have children, one of which is around the age of those showcased within this feature so with that which I already know in mind, and the memory of that which I got up to as a “frustrated lad”, let’s just say I can’t have a fence around my property high enough or security trained well enough. But, that’s enough about me what about the feature at hand?

We commences in a small town in the picturesque countryside on the Belgium/Dutch border. It proceeds to introduce the main players through a reflective narrative; a collective of eight privileged teens each with their own personality, some easier to read than others and others infinitely more perplexing. Everything appears innocent enough, in a Stand by Me or The Goonies sense. But the wholesome family entertainment values are soon brought to an abrupt halt as the cast prove themselves to be far removed from that which traditional celluloid would want the viewer to believe.

alf cake

Because every review needs Alf!

Interactions turn from playful to jaded in the blink of an eye but without the batting of. An impromptu game of “guess what this is” appears ‘everyday’, it seriously is, until one sees the context and parameters of said game, the ease and unabashed nature of how the victor becomes triumphant and how it progresses from its innocent enough origins (which really aren’t) to blatantly off the deep-end in an instant. This is one of the earliest indicators of how We might progress, shocking of that there’s no doubt (these are kids!) but depicted in such a ‘laissez faire’ manner as to highlight the anything goes/zero ramification/responsibility attitudes of those involved. Sure, there’s stereotypes of ‘European’ but this takes the proverbial cake!

It’s at this point that many might have already tuned out and turned away, and I can honestly see why and how they might make this decision. This however is still early on; the films aura becomes cloudier in wanton abandon as it reaches its climax (please excuse the pun in this context) and in doing so showcases a few of the main characters, their decisions, the “Manson-esque” driving force behind their downward spiral, back story and possible reasoning as to why they might be the way they are (?) Outrageous carefree antics transform into illegal pursuit; prostitution, blackmail and an online presence. However, even this isn’t enough for one of the attendees. She demands “it” get bigger still in her pursuit of the perfect reality piece d’art, else she’s out! It isn’t enough that the collective has a lurid website and that they’re spending all kinds of silly cash on whatever takes their fancy at the moment, they yearn for something more, something to ‘up the ante’.

Even with the untimely death of a close friend (a key player in the groups activities), the details of which the film doesn’t divulge until later, the group carry on, even enlisting others to join in on the “fun”. The landscape turns excessively darker and more sinister in tone as the key players experience a mixed bag of emotions, internal struggles and find their own ways to cope with strange new scenarios, and (shock horror) even responsibility and the ramifications of their actions as the film nears its eventual finale. But it’s true what ‘they’ say a small community soon finds a way to uncover all the secrets therein and secrets begin to unwind and unravel at an alarming rate.


Purely because pictures of snow covered roads are boring

We is a feature which is at times understandably difficult to watch, especially for parents with children of around the same age as those depicted; the mind reels, but it remains fascinating throughout whether it is in fact a depiction of “millennials” (which is the common conception) or merely a group of bored kids with zero supervision within surroundings devoid of excitement, and an air of what harm could possibly come from their actions? Unflinching in its approach, bolstered by top-notch, all-in, acting and quick to shock based on the fact that the cast is on initial appearance seemingly as innocent as unplowed snow (whatever that in fact means. I’m sure there’s a pun in there someplace) We takes the viewer to plateaus they might never have imagined and may well be unprepared for, although the tip-off is the disclaimer on the movies ‘box’ (and the fact that it is distributed by none other than the open-minded, censorship-be-damned, folks at Artsploitation). Obviously, many have added misleading blurbs to garner attention and boost sales (I can name a list a mile long off the top of my head as to films which have promised only to have left me miserably disappointed) however this is the real deal.

We takes the viewer on a journey across a terrain that’s bumpy at its best, visually scarring in instances, horrifying in others and a destination which might make one wary about sharing the street, let alone taking out any agreements, with a group of teens. But I won’t ruin it, this is a stunning and undeniably harrowing, experience you have to immerse yourself within with only the spoilers the films synopsis willingly provides. In essence this is a film I enjoyed more than I thought I would though will have a hard time describing without feeling like an utter creep who has just watched something others might not be able to appreciate based on my spoken words (what say I try to describe it better using text) alone …”Yea, it has naked teens in it they have sex and, uhhh… I’ll shut up now before you call the authorities”.

Kids film

Similar in part to outings by Lars Vin Trier, Trainspotting, Life and Death of a Pornogang and KIDS this is a film sure to spurn a myriad of trembling pens to paper, and outraged digits to keyboards in offense as its presence continues to ignite screens on a global basis.

A varied Pop/Techno/70’s soundtrack serves as a hypnotic background to the deviant tableaus on offer and the myriad of emotions bubbling beneath the thin veneer of normalcy on offer, at times. And is far from what one might expect. Kudos to the creative team behind this in their choices rather than the simpler option of utilizing tunes which would have been easier to implement and are undeniably more recognizable.

Plucked from the Artsploitation website “RENE ELLER is a Dutch director and producer. He started working as a casting director for television and commercials. After that Eller started to make an international name for himself, first as music video director and later as the founder of Czar, which grew into one of the most successful commercial production companies in the world. Since a couple of years Eller has fully immersed himself into the world of feature films. We is his feature debut”.

artsploiatation film logo

We is available both cut and uncut on DVD and Blu ray here

Comments, suggestions, recommendations? Feel free to drop me a line.

Your slave to cinema in many of its extreme guises,


  1. […] “Unflinching in its approach, bolstered by top-notch, all-in, acting and quick to shock…We takes the viewer to plateaus they might never have imagined and may well be unprepared for…This is a stunning and undeniably harrowing, experience you have to immerse yourself.” – CultMetalFlix […]

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