The Broken Circle Breakdown highlights Belgian bluegrass

The Broken Circle BreakdownDirector Felix Van Groeningen, who earned widespread critical acclaim for his 2009 film, The Misfortunates, will see his next project hit theaters next month. The Broken Circle Breakdown, based on the play by Johan Heldenbergh and Mieke Dobbels, is billed as a love story set against the backdrop of romance within a bluegrass band.

The two primary characters in this dark drama share a passion for each other, and for American music. Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) plays banjo in a bluegrass group, and Elise (Veerle Baetens) runs her own tattoo parlor. She sings with the band, and the pair falls hard for each other, a romance that is followed both on and off the stage. Things runs smoothly for these two, until a tragedy tears them apart.

Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh in The Broken Circle BreakdownOriginal music for the film was composed by Bjorn Eriksson, but all the music in the band scenes is performed by the actors, a testament to the active Dutch and Belgian bluegrass scene.

The Broken Circle Breakdown is in Dutch, with English sub-titles as you can see in the trailer. It contains a flash of nudity and some profanity, so don’t watch if you are likely to be offended.


It has been quite popular in Europe, where it has been in theaters for some time. The soundtrack album has also sold well, as did a concert tour featuring the musicians in the movie.

The film will be screened in the US next week as part of the ongoing Gathr Preview series, which brings titles that may not receive wide distribution in this country to art house film fans in a number of cities.

  • Tallahassee, FL – All Saints Theater (10/1)  7:00 p.m.
  • Eugene, OR – Bijou Metro (10/3)  7:30 p.m.
  • Providence, RI – Cable Car Cinema & Café (10/1)  7:00 p.m.
  • Portland, OR – Clinton Street Theater (9/30)  7:00 p.m.
  • Kansas City, KS – Fine Arts Theater (10/3)  7:30 p.m.
  • Pittsburgh, PA – Hollywood Theater (9/30)  7:30 p.m.
  • Bloomfield, MI – Maple Theater (10/1)  7:30 p.m.
  • Little Rock, AR – Market Street Cinema (9/30)  7:00 p.m.
  • Bellingham, WA – Pickford Film Center (9/30)  7:30 p.m.
  • Mobile, AL – Saenger Theater (10/3)  6:30 p.m.
  • Columbus, IN – Yes! Theater (10/3)  7:00 p.m.
  • New Orleans, LA – Zeitgeist Theater (9/30)  7:30 p.m.
  • St. Petersburg, FL – Baywalk 20 (10/1)  7:30 p.m.

Broken Circle Breakdown opens in limited US release in November and December, primarily in larger cities. The rest of us may have to wait for a DVD or Netflix release to check it out.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.

  • Thierry Schoysman

    This was the best selling movie last year in Belgium. “Bluegrass”, completely unknown or denied before suddenly became cool and was mentioned on front pages of all major papers, in the news on all channels on radio and TV. The soundtrack went doubble platinum in no time. And one track was number 1 in the hitparade for 3 months.
    All Belgian bluegrass bands benefitted from this extra attention. My band Rawhide played some stages we could only have dreamt of before. We don’t have to explain anymore what bluegrass is. We just say it’s that cool music played in the movie…

  • Thierry Schoysman

    Almost forgot: “The Broken Circle Breakdown” is the official Belgian candidate for oscarnomination as best foreign language film. Check it out ! .

  • dirk

    Cool ! Any hope that “the broken circle breakdown” will come to the movietheaters in Mexico ?