Study of a broken man

67-bullhead Film: Bullhead (Dutch, 2011)

Jacky Vanmarsenille is a cattle trader, with connections to the meat mafia that supplies steroids to fatten cows. He literally lives on juices. Into his bull-like body, Jacky shoots every possible concoction of steroids, and he drinks heavily, despite warnings from his supplier that this habit will soon kill him.

A traumatic incident, from 20 years earlier, has left Jacky scarred and broken. He is shown constantly shadowboxing, and you begin to wonder if he is trying to fight an enemy visible only to him. Jacky, in some sense, is half human, half animal—his grunts so primal, his emotions so unrefined. By his own admission, he has “always felt like the bulls”. He tries to suppress those painful memories by drowning himself in alcohol. But, it is next to impossible to shrug off the past, suggests director Michaël R. Roskam, when a former friend of Jacky’s springs up, and brings along with him all the memories that Jacky has been running from.

Bullhead, which was the Belgian entry for the Best Foreign Film category at the 2012 Oscars, begins as a look into the workings of the meat mafia in Sweden. But, it soon turns into a character study of a reclusive, broken man, with an uncontrollable temper, and his futile attempts to lead a normal life.