Ben X – Belgian/Dutch #AutismMovieN.

 

 

Ben X

Ben X is first and foremost a movie about bullying, but as experienced by the Autistic protagonist.

I had shunned away from watching this movie for quite a long time:

  • Bullying is a subject I prefer not to think about
  • I found the synopsis disturbing
  • with no indication of any uplifting qualities

But after a little more research I decided to watch it and I’m glad I did.

 

Bullying

Ben, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a young boy, is the subject of relentless psychological and physical bullying at the hands of his class mates.

The cinematography was superb and was very well complemented by the dreary, shadowless Belgian autumn setting.

The director communicated perfectly the powerful sense of torment, terror and dread that defined Ben’s day in school.

  • I was never the victim of physical bullying
  • I was a little too tall, too strong and increasingly athletic through my teens
  • Even so, my stomach was in knots watching this film!

There was a lot of slowing down and even freezing of time, when portraying Ben’s sensory processing.

  • Ben’s attention to the tiny details on peoples faces and around him in general, is very well portrayed
  • The audience is placed in the middle of the white-noise hum of social conversations that Ben constantly experiences all around him
  • Ben’s rage is palpable, at least to me

The viewer is left in absolutely no doubt that even without the bullying, Ben is absolutely alone, outcast and adrift, just because he happens to be Autistic.

 

Synopsis

Although Ben is presented as intellectually gifted, his Autism is obvious, though not overdone.

Ben has a somewhat awkward gait and is clearly not athletic, so the outlets for his rage are:

  • Meltdowns
  • Online gaming, where he escapes for hours, playing the character of a Hero

Ben enjoys some respite through the friendship of 2 allies:

  • A well meaning classmate who lacks the physical presence or the social rank needed to protect Ben
  • A pretty girl, met via his online gaming, with whom Ben develops a relationship

As the film progresses Ben starts thinking about suicide as a way to end his pain and torment.

Ben finally manages to take a devastating stand against his tormentors!

  • using his intellect
  • and with the help of his family and girlfriend

 

Screenplay

The screenplay is based on the book ‘Nothing is all he said‘ by Nic Balthazar, who also directed the film.

  • with some adaptations

The book was inspired by the true story of an Autistic boy who committed suicide because of bullying.

 

Epilogue

It wasn’t easy watching this film, although I am aware that huge numbers of children (and adults) suffer far more severe forms of bullying than those depicted in this movie.

As with the portrayal of Ben’s autism, the film maker depicted sufficient examples of disturbing forms of bullying to unsettle the audience, without overwhelming the film and turning it into a freak show.

For me, the film vividly communicates the horror, torment anxiety and dread that I experienced in High school and expressed far more effectively than anything I could offer in prose.

To that end, this film serves as a warning light, for parents, teachers, carers, for how Autistic children can be made to suffer in school.

 

I wouldn’t have posted this review unless there was a glimmer of hope in the film, which I think there was.

Ben X shines a light on the dark side of how school can be experienced by Autistic kids.

  • At the conclusion of this movie, viewers will be better informed about this dark subject
  • Perhaps having a clearer understanding of what their loved ones might actually experience at school

Remarkably, this movie does conclude on an uplifting note, albeit hard fought, with no sugar coating.

 

Ben X trailer

 

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