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Home – Young Critics Workshop

Home (Fien Troch, 2016)

What is the relation between a broken sequence and a broken life? Belgian director Fien Troch takes up this question in Home, in which unfinished images and truncated narratives constitute the film’s structuring violence. The many stories and secrets enmeshed throughout Home revolve around the taciturn figure of Kevin. Newly released from prison on accounts of former fights, the enigmatic seventeen year-old returns not to his actual home—where he is no longer wanted—but rather to begin living with his Aunt’s family in suburban Flanders. This singular displacement of what and where “home” is functions to intertwine the film’s various to-be-damaged subjects into fractured relationships, of lust, boredom, silence, abuse, aggression, and guilt. Filming the void of understanding between the life-worlds of adults and adolescents, Fien Troch’s Home presents an affecting portrayal of emotional breakage achieved through a technical ungrounding of cinematic stability. As the viewer becomes entangled into a social network made of ruptures, no one emerges from Home unmarked by the irresolution that the film’s violence repeatedly incurs.

Home unfolds in scenes of disjunction, oscillating in between the chaotic world of Kevin’s high school peers and the absurd order-enforcing domain of teachers, the law, and of course, parents. Fien Troch creates a wounding space of intergenerational misrecognition not simply through the film’s narrative but also through the cinematic apparatus itself. Troch directed many of the exclusively teenage scenes to be shot on smartphone cameras, presumably by the young actors themselves. In turn, Troch reverses aesthetic conventions of an exterior filmic gaze by mobilizing the camera across the adolescent hands and bodies of those who perform for it. Recurring, fleeting sequences of drinking, smoking, twerking, and other youthful activities are mediated through the smartphone’s pixelated intimacy and skinny vertical frame. Troch intersperses these ephemeral moments of smartphone mise en abyme in the fractures of Home’s narrative, creating a perceptual fragmentation that is additionally underscored in the sonic juxtaposition of pulsing techno music and teenage speechlessness. The sites of conflict that Home gradually reveals are thus foregrounded through Troch’s jolting techniques of cinematic and communicative enjambment.

The force of Troch’s conjoining of torn worlds—of traditional cinematography and smartphone footage and between adolescent and adult lives—builds a destabilizing momentum that discloses the violence of incest and retaliatory murder at the heart of Home’s narrative of ruin. The two-fold trauma of adults misunderstanding adolescents misunderstanding themselves scores the intrusive scene of irreversible and unjustifiable violation. The underlying question that the film asks, as to whether breaching the already-inoperative bounds of personal sovereignty and forging new relations founded on shattered existences is always damaging, possibly redemptive, or simply meaningless, remains unspeakable and necessarily unanswerable. Fien Troch’s Home thus evokes a peculiar sense of nostalgia for an ever-waning present moment. The longing for something that Home leaves unfulfilled foils the possibility of salvation in return or escape, drawing us deeper into a life’s sequences of breakage that everyone perpetrates and in which all are implicated.