Films & Architecture: “In Bruges”

  • 07 Feb 2013
  • by
  • Films & Architecture

In the Belgian language “brug” means bridge, and it’s because of the amount of them in the European medieval city that it took its name. A ”fairy tale f***ing town” is how Harry (Ralph Fiennes), the foul-mouthed boss in In  describes it. And indeed Bruges is a city full of fairy tale-like elements that weave through this crazy, sardonic, violent, and (in our opinion, awesomely) absurd movie.

Have you seen it? Do you know any other film fully linked to a specific city? Let us know in the comments below!


Original title: In Bruges
Year: 2008
Runtime: 107 min.
Country: United Kingdom
Director: Martin McDonagh
Writer: Martin McDonagh
Soundtrack: Carter Burwell
Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clemence Poesy, Jeremie Renier


During his first job, rookie hitman Ray (Colin Farrell) accidentally kills a young boy. He and his senior colleague Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are sent to Bruges by their employer Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes), and told to await further instructions. While Ken takes in the sights and historic medieval buildings, Ray is agitated and depressed, wracked with guilt over the boy’s death. One night, while observing a film shoot with a dwarf actor Jimmy (Jordan Prentice), Ray strikes up a romance with Chloë (Clémence Poésy), a local drug dealer and thief moonlighting as a production assistant. On a date, Ray gets involved in a fistfight with a couple from Canada, mistaking them for Americans. Later that night, Chloë’s former boyfriend Eirik (Jérémie Renier) threatens Ray with a handgun loaded with blanks, but Ray disarms him and shoots Eirik in the eye, partially blinding him.

Despite his budding romance with Chloë, Ray’s guilt at his accidental killing of the boy continues to haunt him. Ken finally receives a call from Harry, who orders him to kill Ray on the principle that the killing of a child — even accidentally — is unforgivable; he would expect the same penalty if it happened to him, as Harry is a family man himself. Ken is given a handgun by Harry’s local Belgian contact and tracks Ray to a park. As Ken sneaks up behind Ray to kill him, he sees Ray is about to shoot himself. His concern for his young friend overrides his sense of duty to their employer, and Ken prevents Ray’s suicide. Ken then confesses to Ray that he had been ordered by Harry to kill Ray, although Ken denies that he intended to go through with the execution. While the two discuss the situation, Ken takes Ray’s gun and convinces him to leave the city and the business. Following Ray’s departure, Ken calls Harry, reveals his insubordination and location, and abruptly hangs up. An enraged Harry immediately heads to Bruges, where he gets a gun and dumdum bullets from his contact.

Before Ray’s train has travelled far from the city, he is arrested for assaulting the Canadian couple and escorted back to Bruges. Chloë bails Ray out of jail, and the two share a drink on the market square beneath Bruges’ belfry. Ken and Harry meet for a drink nearby, before heading to the belfry, passing by Ray and Chloë without noticing them. At the top of the carillon tower, Ken declares that Ray deserves a chance at redemption, but refuses to fight Harry in defense of his own life, as he loves and respects him for his honor and generosity. Harry, while furious, takes pity on Ken and shoots him in the leg rather than in the head. When Eirik, passing by, spots Ray and Chloë and informs Harry of Ray’s location, Ken fights with Harry for Ray’s sake, and is shot in the neck. Harry descends the steps to confront Ray, leaving Ken seriously wounded. Ken drags himself back to the top of the carillon tower and searches for Harry in an attempt to shoot him before he harms Ray, but due to fog, he cannot see from the tower. Ken decides to jump off with his gun, hoping to allow Ray to use it in his defence. After first scattering coins to clear the area below of people, he jumps and lands in the plaza, living just long enough to warn Ray of Harry’s arrival. However, the gun is shattered by the fall.

With Harry in pursuit, Ray flees back to the hotel for his gun, which Ken had stashed in a drawer in their room. Harry arrives soon after, but Marie (Thekla Reuten), the pregnant owner of the hotel, refuses to allow him up the stairs. Shouting through the stairwell, both men agree that Ray will try to flee from the back of the hotel, and Harry will run after him and shoot him if he can. Ray jumps on to a passing boat and drops his gun in the process. Ray looks back to see Harry drawing down on him from a bridge, but doubts that Harry will be able to make the shot due to the distance. Despite the long range, Harry fires and hits Ray in the abdomen. Harry pursues the now-wounded Ray through the streets before stumbling onto the film set, where Jimmy is in costume as a schoolboy. Harry shoots Ray another three times and in the process inadvertently shoots Jimmy in the head with the expanding ammunition, effectively decapitating him. Mistaking Jimmy’s headless body for that of a child, Harry commits suicide on principle despite Ray’s attempts to stop him. The gravely-wounded Ray is lifted onto an ambulance as he sees Marie, Eirik and Chloë in turn. Once in the ambulance, Ray considers prison or death as sufficient recompense for accidentally killing the boy, but then wonders if hell consists of staying in Bruges forever, at which point he says he hopes to live. He then slips into unconsciousness, leaving his fate unclear.


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Previously posted on this section…


Cite: Portilla, Daniel. "Films & Architecture: “In Bruges”" 07 Feb 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • patricio andrade

    Sidewalls – Buenos Aires

    • Daniel Portilla

      Thanks for your recommendation Patricio!

  • Nope

    “Belgian Language”?

    There is no “Belgian Language”. There is Flemish (more or less Dutch), French and German officially spoken.

  • Amaury Henderick

    Indeed ‘brug’ means ‘bridge’ in Dutch (ie. “the Belgian language”), but it’s unlikely that it’s the origin of the city’s name. Bridges were only built after there was already a settlement in the location, and the Dutch language only came to its current form several centuries after the city was already there. Most old Belgian cities and towns have a pre-germanic, Celtic origin. Brugge lies on the river “Reie”, which comes from the Celtic “Ryggia” (‘holy water’). It’s possible the name Bryggia is derived from this somehow. Bryggja is also an ancient germanic word for ‘dock’ or ‘port’.

  • Fustviking

    “In the Belgian language …”
    [stops reading immediately and throws away bookmark]

    keep focussing on the spics guys, works great

  • JLBR

    Firstly, as others have pointed out, to cite something such as the “Belgian language” is just overt ignorance and it’s not even worth explaining why. Secondly, a simple Google search led me to the official tourist webpage of the City of Bruges that states that “The name Bruges in fact comes from the Old Norse “Bryggja” which means landing stage.” ( makes me wonder how ArchDaily, such a popular and sought after webpage for all things architectural is capable of publishing such mediocre writing? Do something about it and please stop making fools out of yourselves.

    • Daniel Portilla

      Dear JLBR,

      About your first point, when I said “Belgian language” that means Flemish, or Belgian Dutch. I know that within this name there are several dialects, but my expertise is not related to linguistic subjects neither the post.

      Actually, the only reason I mentioned the name it’s because of its relevance with an urban feature of the city, their bridges. So again, please don’t be that absolutist and try to understand that reality is not as clear as you see it before claiming ignorance. Here’s some info about the city name toponymy:

      The place-name Bruges is first mentioned as Bruggas, Brvggas, Brvccia in 840 – 875, then Bruciam, Bruociam in 892, Brutgis uico end 9th century, in portu Bruggensi around 1010, Bruggis in 1012, Bricge in 1037 (Anglo-Saxon chronicle), Brugensis in 1046, Brycge 1049 – 1052 (ASC), Brugias in 1072, Bruges in 1080 – 1085, Bruggas around 1084, Brugis in 1089, Brugge in 1116.
      Probably from Old Dutch, cf. Middle Dutch brucge, brugge (or brugghe, brigghe, bregghe, brogghe). cf. Dutch bruggehoofd “bridgehead”, Dutch Brug “bridge”), The Dutch word brug(ghe) would be variant form from the south. from Proto-Germanic *brugjō- “bridge”, “harbour bridge”, “veenbrug” (cf. English bridge).


  • Chimera

    I saw this movie and next 16th February I’ll go in Belgium, in Bruxelles and in the lovely Bruge!!!

  • Third Coast Line

    Best film linked with a specific city? The Vienna of Carol Reed’s ‘The Third Man’, every time. Closely followed by its comedic double in the West/East Berlin of Billy Wilder’s One, Two, Three….

    Efficient Office Manager, Coca Cola Inc. W. Berlin HQ: “Oh, I don’t know much about life during the war. I was in the underground you see.”
    Airlifted American Coke Exec: “You were in the resistance?”
    Manager: “No, the Untergrundbahn. I drove the trains.”

  • Pingback: Films & Architecture: “In Bruges” | Nick Socrates Contemporary Art

  • Gee Gee

    After Hours, 1985

    All About My Mother, 1999

    • Daniel Portilla

      Thank you, we’ll add them to the list ;)

  • Gee Gee

    Vicky Cristina Barcelona, 2008

  • sb

    Before Sunrise (1994),
    Before sunset (2001)

    • Daniel Portilla

      Thank you. Such a great movies… Did you know that the third part is about to come out this year?

  • Sophia Daye

    ‘Gaudi Afternoon’ 2001

    • Daniel Portilla

      Thank you Sophia!

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