The Break (La Trêve) is the first French-language Belgian TV crime drama now available as a Netflix Original. The Break is now my newest addition to my ever-growing listicle of bleak, grim, moody, obsessive dramas from around the world, many Scandinavian “noir”. This is a must-see.
The main character, police detective Yoann Peeters (the extraordinary Yoann Blanc), has moved rather reluctantly from Brussels to his hometown village of Heiderfeld. After the death of his wife and an internal affairs investigation that left his professional reputation compromised, Peeters is searching for a new start with his teenage daughter Camille.
Almost immediately the body of a nineteen-year-old soccer player, Driss, is pulled from the river by a fly fisherman and ruled a suicide by the police commissioner. Peeters suspects murder. The deeper he investigates, the more suspects appear with unsavory connections, often racist pasts, and other secrets both desperate and depraved. His partner, an inexperienced young Sebastian Drummer, is a Heiderfeld native, who believes there can be no murderers in his peaceful hamlet. Peeters, on the other hand, believes anyone is capable of murder.
Soon Peeters’s investigation is thwarted by practically everyone in town leading to shocking plot twists. Horrifying secrets surface from the bowels of a bucolic, picturesque community centered on farming, horses, and cows. The lush rolling hills in the Belgian countryside disguise the nightmarish tectonic shifts roiling in our imagination.
The Break is an adrenaline rush for viewers who enjoy crime and suspense. Decoding the criminal methods and identifying the murderer are surprisingly challenging. The first seven episodes (out of ten) each begin with a unique dream, conflating the imagined with the real. A forensic psychologist treating Peeters adds to the surreal difficulties of grasping truth from lies, insinuating that the truth has to be excavated with patience and determination. At least eight different suspects could be the murderer as more clues and more damaged characters are revealed.
The cinematography is muscular and the lighting haunting, insinuating the unexpected and hidden violence within a web of complicity and deception. Uncontrollable violence is hinted at–in Peeters himself. While it might seem as if Nordic noir has reached saturation point, this drama suggests there is more to discover. Season 2 is projected for the end of this year!