The Dorkels / Eat My Bones – Review ***

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The Dorkels (aka Eat My Bones) is on the one hand a very straightforward film. On the other hand, it merits a good amount of explaining, not least because it is less of a complete work of fiction and very much intertwined with real life. The characters we see on screen are not professional actors. A lot of the actions we see on the screen are things that actually happened – or could have happened. In this sense, before we plunge into The Dorkels, it might behoove us to take a look at who they actually are…

The Dorkels is actually one of the many results of the work director Jean Charles Hue has done with the Yeniche community in France. The Yeniche are a community of travelers differentiated from the slightly better known Roma through their origins: the Roma are generally known to be of Indian origins while the Yeniche descended from the Celts. Hue has family ties to the Yeniche and in particular to the Dorkel brothers Frederic and Moise. Hue had previously worked on a documentary depicting the community for about seven years. After that  he decided to take this documentary-style footage and bend it ever so slightly to make it into fiction, but the kind of fiction that would depict the Yeniche community without holding back, warts and all. The first result was called La BM du Seigneur / The Lord’s Ride, a slightly surreal Yeniche-western. This second film uses much of the same methodology and the same real characters but works on making a slightly different work out of them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kK7uBngGbE4

The hero of the story is 18 year-old Jason Dorkel. He is getting ready for his baptism, an important rite of passage for his community. His life with his cantankerous family is not calm, it is definitely not completely legal in every single aspect of it, but they have an interconnection of some sort and they get along. Until, that is, Jason’s half brother Fred Dorkel arrives on the scene. Fred has been in prison for 15 years; he was known as a loose cannon when he was young and the years in prison certainly haven’t cooled him down. Fred blows into the camp like a hurricane, antagonizing some, exciting others and dragging his brother Mikael and Jason behind him on a night of adventure which starts off aiming to make them all rich but will end up having very, very unexpected consequences…

The first point that needs to be made is that if the story we see is a work of fiction, it is literally steps away from being a documentary. Not one of the characters on screen are professional actors and as such deserve to be commended on their ease in front of the camera (although I have to say the fact that Hue had been filming the clan for over seven years would have helped). The way the film is filmed and edited, the way the Yeniche life is shown – down to the Yeniche slang they speak, making subtitles necessary even for French-speaking audiences – gives us a sense of reality that could not possibly have been conveyed in “constructed” shots, no matter what talent went into setting them up.

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In this reality Hue introduces Fred Dorkel as a man fresh out of prison with a score to settle with life and having had far too much time to mull over grievances from 15 years ago. He has a serious drinking problem, he is loud and defiant of everything around him. All in all, he seems very hard to like. However, as we gradually get to know him we cannot help but sympathize with him as we see his real concern for his brothers, his family and the unresolved issues that put him in prison in the first place.

It is an interesting experience watching this film. Fred may be an explosive character but here we are far from the “build-up” witnessed in this kind of thrillers. In fact I can well imagine some viewers losing interest and giving up by the time the dramatic tension and action actually build up. But the point here is that Hue has accomplished something rather “odd”. He has taken real life in almost all its characteristics and made the smallest, slightest touches to shape it. Art and life always imitate each other as we all know, but here it would be hard to say which is imitating which. So all the viewer can do, as with real life, is sit back and let the film take its course.

The Dorkels is not a film for everyone. Calling it “gritty and realistic” would be a massive understatement and not everyone likes this much reality in their films. But if you have the patience to bear with it and carry on, as with life itself, it will reveal some true gems in all the grit, though very much at its own pace…

The Dorkels will be released in UK cinemas on 25th April.

A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Sedef moved to London three years ago to get her MA in Film Studies and never quite got round to going back home. As she once worked in a DVD company and watched films for a living, she started a personal blog (essiespeaks.blogspot.com) as a short answer to being constantly asked “watched anything interesting recently?” and loved blogging so much she just kept typing . She is the biggest Tarantino fan she knows and would be unable to choose a single film of his as a favourite.