Ex Drummer Review
Ex Drummer really goes out of its way to offend as many people as it possibly can, you’ve got to at least give it that. Women, homosexuals and the disabled are all mocked, beaten and verbally abused even before the film has ten minutes running time on the clock. Director Koen Mortier also does his best to confuse and disorient the viewer in those opening shots with backward running photography, through a character carrying on a rant from an upside-down position as he paces across the ceiling, and with sudden jump cuts, as well as assaulting the viewer with some truly horrendous noise on the ears (I think it’s called Flemish). There’s also evidently violent outbursts and random, indiscriminate attacks on members of the general public, all carried out by the three members of an outrageous Belgian punk band who are planning on getting together for a one-off gig.
There’s just one problem – the band are looking for a drummer, but he has to be handicapped since all three of the existing band members have various disabilities. Ivan (Sam Louwyck) is deaf, Koen (Norman Baert) is speech impaired (which is actually the least of his dysfunctions) and Jan (Gunter Lamoot) has an immobile right arm (and is gay to boot!). It’s not exactly easy to find a handicapped drummer in Ostend to fill the position, but they offer the job to the famous writer Dries Van Hegen (Dries Van Hegen), since he claims his handicap is that he can’t play drums. Entering into the spirit of this adventure into the sordid and the obscene, thinking that it will undoubtedly provide rich material for his next book, Dries suggests calling the band The Feminists, since “four handicapped guys are just as good as four feminist bitches”.
So in what other ways can the film offend? Racism, anti-Semitism, explicit sex, drug abuse, foul language? All dutifully deployed. Blood and gore? Oh, yes – loads of it, sprayed all over the place. Disrespect of dead royalty? Maybe that’s stretching the idea of offensiveness just a bit. The music? Well, they’re a punk band, so the one place you would at least expect them to be shocking and outrageous is in their music and stage performance, but The Feminists are all good musicians, and their idea of punk rock is evidently rock and roll with attitude in the tradition of The Ramones and Devo (they rehearse a cover of the band’s Mongoloid). Ex Drummer’s intention to offend is quite blatant, but it’s also quite funny. It’s even funnier that many viewers are actually offended when the intention to shock is this blatant. It’s no more genuine than famous writer Dries Van Hegen’s desire to “descend into the depth of stupidity, ugliness, obtuseness, unfaithfulness and fake”, revelling in the squalor of real people’s lives, only to return home at the end of the day to his normal privileged lifestyle.
Based on the 1994 novel by controversial Flemish author Herman Brusselmans, it’s clear from the film treatment that the author does an interesting line in egotism and self-loathing, pouring his hatred out into his characters, who are treated with contempt throughout. They remain caricatures to the end – and even after their ends, as they belatedly reveal backgrounds that attest not to their authenticity but rather to their nature as fictional constructs. There’s no social comment here and no sincerity at all in the offensive bile spilt out onto the screen, it’s merely an unleashing of the writer’s demons through the character of Dries, who is free to indulge in the filth and the excess with abandon, free of any real-world consequences.
The viewer is invited to do exactly the same. Koen Mortier clearly recognises the power of the potentially inflammatory and unfilmable material he has to work with and he plays it to the hilt. It’s a very well made film, dark and grungy certainly, but studiously so and often reminiscent of Trainspotting, playing around in the filth and throwing it at the viewer with an attitude of “fuck you if you can’t take a joke”. It’s a very juvenile attitude, but if you are male and about 15 or under, Ex Drummer could well be the greatest film you’ve ever seen.
Ex Drummer is released on DVD in the UK by Tartan. The film is presented on a dual-layer disc, in PAL format, and is not region encoded.
Tartan give Ex Drummer a perfect transfer that is completely faithful to the film’s intended grungy look and feel. Colour timing is perfect, black levels are impressive, and the visible grain is well handled by the transfer which exhibits not a flicker of macroblocking. This looks simply great.
The audio options are also impressive. There’s no DTS track, but the Dolby Digital 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are more than sufficient and given an extensive workout on a busy soundtrack with a dynamic and loud rock score.
English subtitles are optional and presented in a clear white font.
The main extra feature is the film’s Making Of (31:37), charting the difficulties of financing the film (denied funds by the Belgian Film Commission), and the on-set problems between the director and his cast. Much of this feels fake, painting the director Koen Mortier as a wild, crazy, out of control character and the film as being permanently on the point of crisis. It’s certainly all in the spirit of the film though. The Original Trailer (1.41) capitalises on the shock value of the film and the outrage it seemed to have provoked in the press. The remaining extra features focus on the bands performing at the rock competition. This includes a Music Video for the Feminists by Millionaire (2:52), a deleted performance of the Overdo Hykers – The Band That Never Made The Film (2:07) probably on account of them being crap (and they actually seem to be called the Overdose Bikers from their introduction), as well as a Flip Kowlier Music Video (2:57), as mimed by “Harry Mulisch”.
If you’re easily offended, then you’d be as well giving Ex Drummer a wide berth - but seriously, I mean it when I say that you would really need to be easy to offend not to see the funny side of this blatant and essentially harmless attempt to poke fun at political correctness. Take it in the attitude it is intended and Ex Drummer can often be squirmingly funny. It’s certainly very well made. The same can be said for Tartan’s DVD release, giving the film a simply perfect audio-visual transfer that amply suits the requirements of the film’s look and tone, with a strong selection of extra features.
Last updated: 18/04/2018 23:13:49