What starts out as a normal day for a security guard at a mall ends up being a near death experience when a bomb is set off inside of the mall. After falling to the ground from the explosion he instinctively runs back into the ruined mall to try and save the people inside, until his heads snaps out of it and he escapes running. After this event he meets the people he tried to save and they question his reasons while showing him their final hours.
It's hard not to love Koen Mortier's "Ex Drummer". It really came at you with a fistful of craziness. I can't do anything else but admire that movie. It's just entertaining as hell, violent, visually interesting and filled with insane, dark comedy. For a debut feature it's fucking amazing. I just knew I had to get a screener copy of his second feature. I didn't know much and didn't care to get it spoiled so I stopped at knowing it would again be an arthouse film, and that a bomb played a big part of the story. It took a while for it to get here, but with complete confidence to the director I just sat down with the screener as soon as I came home to find it on the floor and watched it.
It takes about 15 minutes for the plotline to be part of the history. It starts with a great, long shot of our lead Sam (played by Sam Louwyck who also was in "Ex Drummer" as Ivan Van Dorpe) getting ready to go to work, and then it cuts to him on the way there. When he gets there we see that he is a mall security guard. It's a very calm morning, he throws out the local tramp from the mall as he does every morning. Other than some brief encounters with visitors at the mall, he is just standing outside of the entrance and looks around a bit at the people going in but not really paying attention. All of the sudden a huge explosion is heard and the mall is within seconds filled with smoke and dust. People are screaming as they are smashed under huge pieces of concrete and whatnot. Sam falls to the ground, but quickly gets up again and runs into the mall and begins pulling people he finds out of the mall. After struggling with one person for a while, he just runs away to get rid of it all. He ends up collapsing on the ground, and wakes up when a woman is talking to him. Turns out she is a person from the mall.
From this point on the rest of the movie travels into Sam's mind as he relives the event in different ways. He meets more people from the disaster and they begin to ask him why he ran away, why he didn't help them. Even meeting the person behind the bombing. They share bits of their day with him and he tries to fight through his guilt-ridden past by reliving it and trying to change it with the other people's story at hand. I don't want to spoil it, even though there isn't much to spoil, so it's hard to exactly describe what this movie is. In some ways it's one of those films like "Elephant" where you see the same day through different eyes, so to speak. But it has an arthouse edge to it, making it something very unique. Even though it doesn't always make sense, it's never trying to fool you or twist things up. Quite the opposite, the movie ends up as it was always going to.
Even though the story itself isn't exciting, it's just very intense in it's production. The explosion from the bomb was extremely intense and actually got my heart beating faster. The soundtrack is subtle but always noticable. It gets a bit repetitive, but overall it does a lot for the movie's atmosphere. The location is perfect, it looks like just any mall in just any city. Sam Louwyck was good in "Ex Drummer" but he's fantastic in this one. So is most of the cast (we recognize more people from "Ex Drummer" as well) to be honest. They all deliver their character in a realistic manner and each of them have a story behind them worth listening to.
The movie works hard on being slow but emotional and in that way very strong. I think it was an excellent study in how little we know about the people around us and how our lives can connect. And the most important thing that it makes us think about is how fast our lives can end, and that's a scary thing. "22 mei" is a much more calm monster, but just as interesting as "Ex Drummer". If Koen Mortier continues to make films like these I will continue to be excited about his name. I can't see how he will not be mentioned with the greats in a few years. "22 mei" isn't for people who want another "Ex Drummer", but for fans of extraordinary arthouse films. Some people will hate it, but some people will love it dearly.