Have you ever been to or driven through the Ardennes?
Do you know where the Ardennes are? Though I knew the name, I had to look them up to be able to place them on a map. The Ardennes are a hilly and forested area that is mostly in South East Belgium. but also included a part of Northern France and Luxembourg.
The Ardennes, specifically the small town of Heiderfeld, Belgium is the location of a new offering from Netflix. The original title was La Treve which is French for ‘The Truce’, but Netflix has chosen to call this 10 episode series ‘The Break’.
In fact La Treve’s English translation can almost mean something like:
A break in the hostilities
Which fits the series exactly. Here’s a version of the story line for La Treve:
The body of 19-year-old Driss Assani, above, who is a young African from Togo, recruited to play soccer for the Heiderfeld football club,
is pulled out of the river Semois, a short distance from Heiderfeld, a small town of a few thousand inhabitants in the Belgian Ardennes. The police investigation is led by Inspector Yoann Peeters, who has recently moved there after a personal domestic tragedy and a professional one as well. Peeters is aided by Sebastian Drummer, an idealistic and inexperienced young police officer.
Peeters is adamant that the death was not a suicide, as in a leap from the local bridge. That’s Peeters on the bridge in the image below.
The suicide idea was formulated by the local chief of police, who, likely – above all other considerations, wanted to keep the peace, close the case, and not stir things up.
At this point, there’s a flash forward, and we find that Detective Peeters is in a psychiatric hospital and is under going an evaluation. We have no idea why.
And that is the basis for the series. It is sort of like a TV series told in separate layers:
The Present time: The murder investigation as led by Peeters
The Past: The fact of how Driss was killed is shown in different perspectives as new suspects come into play
The Future: Peeters is in a psych ward.
I kind of liked the show as it seemed to be drawn from the British series Broadchurch. In the British show, a new cop came into a British coastal town with some baggage which included a problematic situation as a policeman in another jurisdiction, Yoann Peters is in the same situation as he headed up the disastrous Operation Berger, which led to four police officers being killed in Brussels.
Peeters is played by an actor called Yoann Blanc. Peeters is intense and driven, to put it mildly. In addition, he is popping antidepressants and amphetamines. It is obvious that while he seems over his wife’s passing, and the infamous Operation Berger, the affair in Brussels, externally – in reality, he’s still a struggling work in progress.
But if only it was just a lead detective struggling to solve a case, and overcome his personal demons at the same time. Heiderfeld is a small town but there’s a lot going on beneath the surface. In no particular order there’s the issue of teenage drug use and sex, an ambitious dam project that will require some locals to give up their lands and homes, a crooked soccer coach who has a history of fixing games, and the soccer players are still waiting for their signing bonuses.
There’s a hermit like guy who lives in the woods. He’s called Indian Jeff and he is who the police like as the killer. Then we have a young man, the son of diplomats, who throws wild parties involved sex and drugs. There’s an older fellow who has his own museum of Nazi paraphernalia and artifacts. Let’s not forget a woman who twenty years prior was Peeter’s girl friend.
The assistant soccer coach is gay and maybe having sex with under-aged teenage men. The chief of police might be inept and/or corrupt.
Peeters partner in the investigation, Sebastian Drummer, is a kind of shy guy, and he is in no position to contradict or argue the case with his senior Peeters. He is also awkward socially.
Peeters daughter Camille (above) is like a fish out of water. She’s a city girl and being asked to live with her Dad in a small town in the Ardennes is difficult for her. We should not be surprised when she falls in with the wrong crowd.
As I said, just like in Broadchurch, the deeper the detective investigates, the more suspects appear. However we should all keep in mind that having unsavory connections, or a shady past, or having secrets that are both anti-social and desperate do not automatically make you a murderer.
But Yoann has an even darker view. He believes that one need not show signs. His core belief as a cop, is that any one of us is capable of murder.
You’ll like the look of the Ardennes and the creative ways that the director utilizes the in between the scenes transitional shots. As a long time city dweller, I always liked to get out of Manhattan and go for a drive into the nearby country and take hikes in the woods. I still like to do that, even though I am no longer living anywhere near New York. So, being able to spend a good deal of time in the Ardennes was something I appreciated.
I am happy to recommend the series, but with a small advisory. The last few episodes are exceeding bleak and dark. There’s a good amount of violence in nearly all the episodes but especially so as we approach the end.. Frankly, and correctly, this is not a series to watch with younger children.