Belgium is a very small country. It has a fair amount of great music artists as well as movie actors, but globally it’s a country that hasn’t done too much, save for the occasional exception (e.g. Toots Thielemans or Matthias Schoenaerts). There is definitely much to be proud of, but if you know that the most successful Belgian movie Loft hardly raised an eyebrow internationally, then you know that small Belgium isn’t ready yet to play with the big boys …
However, there is something called Matroesjka’s (or Russian dolls in English). It’s easily the very best thing Belgium has ever created …
MATROESJKA’S – SEASON 1
Season one of Matroesjka’s shows us the reality of how hundreds of women each year are taken from their homes and forced into a life of prostitution, under the pretense that they will become rich and successful dancers.
It doesn’t take long for the women to realize the rot they’re in, but by that time it’s too late. They signed a contract and have no means or money to go back home.
The series focuses on a Belgian gang who travel to Lithuania to recruit young women and bring them back to Belgium. It shows us a real insight on how these women are abused, humiliated and often beaten within an inch of their lives. To make matters worse, they are hardly payed to do this.
The success of the shows is how it doesn’t mince things. It’s really raw and sometimes painful to watch. The police are always one step behind, which makes it that much harder for the girls to escape their sex-oriented prison.
Other than what you may expect from a Belgian product, the acting is absolutely brilliant! Especially the girls, they act so natural and raw … you forget this is only a TV-show.
The leading gang members are very convincing, but that’s hardly a surprise – they’re all very famous and experienced Belgian actors. Without exaggerating things, one could easily say this is – for each one of them – their finest performance yet.
One exception perhaps is actor Tom Van Dyck who plays the part of a psychopathic killer. His performance is quite fine and often very funny (though dark humored), but there are obvious character trades that he’s borrowed from past roles.
His laughter, for example, is a shallow copy of the role he played on another show, Het eiland (the island).
Pity that towards the end of barely 10 seasons, the shows unnecessarily slows down.
After a while – though the girls are very pretty to look at, especially Russian actress Eugenia Khirivskaya – you are tired of seeing girls swinging on poles and dirty men putting their hands on the girl’s bodies.
It’s a good thing this show ends on a high note. The ending is a real shocker (as Belgian movies/series go) and there is much laughter that follows.
One sad note is that those who don’t understand Flemish will miss out on many little jokes, as the bad English of the criminals intertwined with Dutch words often creates the most hilarious situations!
MATROESJKA’S – SEASON 2
Season 2 of Matroesjka’s is a lot more about making a good sequel, rather than the message of how evil and dangerous human trafficking is.
Season 2 begins pretty much the same way Season 1 does, only this time in Thailand. Girls are being sold for ridiculous prices, and it’s usually their mothers who shamelessly give them away for nothing.
Season 2 of Matroesjka’s feels much more like a story of fiction. The drama continues three years later, and Ray Van Mechelen en Eddy Stoefs are released from jail only to discover Jan Verplancke took all their money to run a strip-bar in Thailand. This makes for a very difficult reunion between the three men.
As far as the erotic dancers go, there is slightly more diversion. We now see Russian girls, Ukrainian girls but also a few Thai.
The filmmakers obviously had many more means at their disposal, because the girls are much more beautiful this time around. Especially Russian actress Anastasiya Zadorozhnaya who plays Alyona has the looks of a dreamy blonde supermodel.
Even more impressive are the locations in Season 2. More time and money was spent to give the show a more authentic look in different cities all over Europe. From the slums in Bulgaria to the beautiful natural environments in Thailand.
Back again as usual is the combination of dirty Flemish talk and bad English. Much humor goes into the mixing of both languages, which is why Matroesjka’s simply works better in Dutch than it does in any other tongue. Language is key!
Like a real sequel, season 2 of Matroesjka’s offers more action, many more international stars and a pretty good story to tie it all together.
Even though the ending is very fun to watch, there’s a few lesser moments to chew through. At times the main characters sit in their living room doing virtually nothing … contemplating their next move.
Did you know?
Amnesty International will be using scenes from “Matroesjka’s” in a documentary to be screened at schools in eastern Europe to warn girls for these malpractices.
Give it to me short:
There aren’t many TV-shows in Belgium worthy enough to sell globally, but Matroesjka’s (or Russian dolls in English) is definitely one of them! Though watching it in Dutch makes more sense as some of the best jokes is some Flemish guy speaking bad English, it’s a show that’ll easily translate in any part of the world, most notably because the premise of the show deals with something as real and raw as human trafficking.
Season 1 builds the foundation of the main characters and beautifully, though with gut-wrenching drama sometimes, depicts the awfulness of young girls forced into prostitution. The message conveyed is an important one, and enough time is spent to show you all sides of this billion dollar trademark. Season 2 is less interested in tutoring and delves much more deeply into make-belief escapism. It’s much closer to a drama than a real-life depiction of human trafficking.
All things considered, Matroesjka’s is one of the very best things Belgium has éver created … fabulous stuff!