Symen and Sam pass their time in the monotony of a post-industrial suburb. They seem to linger in a kind of perpetual twilight countered by the invisible presence of ‘hardcore’. While gaming, they end up searching for the core of their desires.
It usually takes a single warning, but this film has two. First, “This film contains stroboscopic effects.” Meaning, shield your eyes and brace yourself; a migraine is incoming. Do you have a glass of water handy? The other, “Luca School of Arts Campus Sint-Lukas Brussel”, is perhaps more ominous; beware of the student filmmaker’s naivety and conformity with the prevailing euro-art-house style. But you know what? These art school kids, mentored by renowned Bas Devos, know how to throw a party.
So when +6 Gain opens, anticipation is in the air. The sky is a pinkish blood moon, a shepherd’s delight, an evening like no other. We hear nothing. Genk-born filmmaker Jorn Plucieniczak starts his film with an aesthetically pleasing image, trees, and that rich sky, and then questions what’s underneath. We cut to a blurred, fumbled tracking shot of quiet suburban roads, street lights, with no sound. The post-industrial landscapes that characterise the Flanders cinema you often see on the international festival circuit are eschewed, merely glanced at in passing. The camera points upward in fear of pylons, as if they were the tripods from War of the Worlds, before running for safety toward the even more terrifying forest, where green leaves threaten to poke through all that pink. A figure cuts through the strobe within, resembling the creepypasta Internet meme Slender Man, a tormenter. Then the title card hits to wake us up.
The Slender Man—actor/subject Symen Martens—also awakens as the camera slowly finds focus—sweater draped off one shoulder, stretchers in his ears. Head shaved, though he would rock a widow’s peak haircut. Skater, footy on the weekend, chill out after work with a few tins and a bit of Family Guy. Martens is an instantly recognisable type and, like so many Belgians, absurdly chiseled—something in the beer, I’m sure. He’s pensive, even though his friend Sam talks his ear off about Frenchcore, an obnoxious Gabber subgenre. It’s the morning after a rave, their raison d’être, and Plucieniczak captures their gloaming. Martens has to work tomorrow, so no drink, he says, as Sam scoffs.
Another red street. A larger group of lads in their shell suits, at a half distance, chatting, smoking fags. It’s last night’s—now Martens is mournful, out of focus again. Sam recalls Dour Festival, of leaving their suburban sprawl where daylight never quite breaks, where children and grown-ups are absent. Since coming home from the festival, he can’t stop watching clips of the experience on YouTube—the festival mindset of creating party memories is about the only thrill this pair can chase.
Martens’ parents are never home, and that’s where Plucieniczak takes us next, filming the mere corners of its exterior like it’s a place he would rather not capture. Martens, in his Adidas tracksuit, sat on a bench, looking into the kitchen. He hits the vape, and smoke wafts around his legs. In its duration, the following close-up breaks reality: Martens is no Lee Kang-sheng, Tsai Ming-liang’s fetish actor, but his lack of interiority betrays the larger mindset here. He answers a cell phone call. “What’s the location?”
Plucieniczak is searching for the spiritual in the notion of Living For The Weekend, and as it gets closer, the colours are further enveloping, pink turning to red. Strobes flicker on Martens’ bald head. His body is out of focus, camera swerving left and right; it’s full Irréversible; the music begins to swoosh in, a trance banger waiting patiently to drop. But instead, we cut into the lounge. On-screen: Call of Duty, a sniper. The camera pans left from the screen to the Jarman-blue walls of Stretch’s house. Sounds of the console fan, the disc tray whirring, and his friend checking Google Street View for the location. It’s a forest with some acoustically friendly-looking caves.
Now, they have arrived at their destination. Darkness, behind, “Do you hear it?” We hear nothing. Torchlight leads their Dickies backpacks. They trudge through, sizing it up. Is this space enough for Hardcore? By morning, they’re napping there. The camera floats by them, like a poltergeist checking out the new prey. Philippe Grandrieux’s figural images linger somewhere above us. It’s time.
A black screen for a long while, though length in this film’s terms is relative. It’s maybe thirty seconds. Then, the repetitive Gabber beat hammers. Do you like this? You shouldn’t. It builds, the sound of slaps on metal—more bass. Hardcore takes the intellectual out of Industrial Techno, reducing the liquid cool to pure noise and negative energy. Red flickers, out-of-focus bodies sway, camera dollies in as laser abrasions take the music someplace else, suddenly sharp focus, moving past the people so it’s a strobe, it’s all strobe, flickering like Brakhage, like a film reel spooling, reminding this digital production of its lineage. Glitches on screen—the Vimeo link? My fibre connection? No, it’s real; we’re leaving Earth behind. That’s what Gabber does, not that anyone in their right mind would enjoy it, but Martens reaches a peak in this ADHD music, this aural stim, and now the screen is barely colours at all, just abrasions of light and dark.