Most people have a daily routine from the time they get up in the morning to the time they go to bed at night. For many of us that would involve a considerable amount of time spent at work, whether at an office or at home, and this would also include the daily repetition of uneventful tasks like taking the trash out, opening the mail or brushing your teeth. But when the daily routine gets disrupted or something odd or peculiar occurs, it usually results in a more memorable day. It could also be just the beginning of a series of occurrences that change your life and the way you look at the world. This is what happens to Freek Groenevelt (yes, it’s a weird name), the protagonist of De Komst van Joachim Stiller (English title: The Arrival of Joachim Stiller), a magical realism fantasy based on a novel by Belgium writer Hupert Lampo and adapted to film by Harry Kumel.
Have you ever woken up from a dream that was almost ordinary in the way it unfolded yet it left you with a feeling that it had taken place in some ethereal twilight zone? That is the best way that I can describe the experience of watching Appointment in Bray aka Rendez-vous a Bray (1971), Andre Delvaux’s artful adaptation of the Julien Gracq short story, Le Roi Cophetua. On the surface, the film has the structure of a traditional character study but is actually much closer in tone and atmosphere to a cinematic haiku, one that offers meditative reflections on memory, friendship and the debilitating effects of war.