Making a documentary about a court case has become popular over the past couple of years. It almost is like an extension of reality television. Unless something is based on real-life drama then we are not interested.
If that is your thinking on your movie viewing then there is plenty of real-life drama for you in Belgian filmmaker Eric Silance’s A Charge et a Décharge. The documentary follows the trial of Léopold Storme, who was accused of killing his parents and sister in 2007. He was found guilty of the brutal murders, but always claimed he was innocent. Now, you are thinking that prisons everywhere are filled with “innocent” criminals, so what is so interesting about this case? The interesting part is how it is filmed.
Silance does not slant his coverage in any way. He just films with no apparent biases surfacing. On top of that he places the viewer in as a member of the jury. While watching the court case unfold in front of you the expectation is that you come up with a guilty or not guilty verdict at the end of it all.
At the time of murders, which occurred in the family store in Brussels, Léopold was 19-years-old and studying at the Solvay Business School. All the victims were stabbed with his father suffering 22 wounds, his mother 33 and his sister the most at 44. The bodies were discovered the next day. When Léopold was brought in for questioning he has some strange cuts on his hands. His explanations for them were inconsistent saying that they were due to falling off his bicycle then changing the story to one of automutilation. He said he took the train the Belgian coast at the beginning of the weekend and stayed there until Sunday. When confronted about the implausibility of that story he changed it to say that he had been at the family store and there they were attacked by strangers. Léopold could not tell the police how many attackers there were. Due to the evidence and the inconsistencies in his story the young man was arrested and put on trial.
Léopold was on trial from the 4th to the 27th of October, 2010 for these three murders. He was defended by his lawyers, Huet and Mayence.
While on trial the story changed yet again when he claimed he did go to the store where the entire family was attacked by strangers, but that he was able to get away from the attackers and then came back later. His story seemed to change often. Over the course of the trial it came out that when his computer was analyzed it was learnt that he did searches on the train schedule, chloroform and disguises to make yourself look older. A friend also testifies that around that time he also asked him about obtaining a combat knife. A pair of blood covered shoes that were identified as Léopold’s are also introduced into evidence. A search turned up places where his clothing had been dumped including into the sea and they also had traces of his deceased family members’ blood. His blood was also found on the bodies of all three victims.
Despite all the evidence before the jury was sent off to deliberate, Léopold stated to them that he was innocent and if need be would continue to proclaim so for the rest of his life. The documentary gives you a very unique perspective and puts you right at the center of the action during the trial. After the trial is over you feel a weight on your shoulders like you were actually involved in the decision concerning this man’s innocence or guilt.
This film will stay will you long after the lights go on in the theatre and you go about your merry way.