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.
Ben 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 and lead actor who plays Ben, communicated perfectly the powerful sense of torment, terror and dread that defined Ben’s days at 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, in his case Asperger’s Syndrome.
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:
- 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.
The screenplay is an adaptation of the book ‘Nothing is all he said‘ by Nic Balthazar, who also directed the film.
The book was inspired by the true story of an Autistic boy who committed suicide because of bullying.
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, dread and anxiety that I experienced in High school, far more effectively than I could have expressed in prose.
To that end, this film serves as a warning light, for parents, teachers, carers, showing 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 school life for Autistic kids.
- At the conclusion of this movie, viewers will be better informed and have a clearer understanding of what their loved ones might be experiencing at school
Remarkably, this movie does conclude on an uplifting note, albeit hard fought, with no sugar coating.
No spoilers. See for yourself.
Ben X trailer
Tags: Anxiety, Aspergers, Aspergers Syndrome, Autism Advocacy, Autism film, Autism in Belgium, Autism movie, Autistic, Belgian Autism film, Belgium Asperger's film, Belgium Asperger's movie, Belgium Autism movie, Ben X, bullying, Dutch language Asperger's film, Dutch language Asperger's movie, Dutch language Autism film, Dutch language Autism movie, High School, intellect, movies, Nic Balthazar, Nothing was all he said, Postcards from the Edge of the Spectrum, school, social communication
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