Films & Architecture: "In Bruges"

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 Bruges 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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Cite: Daniel Portilla. "Films & Architecture: "In Bruges"" 07 Feb 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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