AFI Fest 2013
By Don Simpson | November 18, 2013
Director: Patrice Toye
Writers: Patrice Toye, Ina Vandewijer
Starring: Line Pillet, Charlotte De Bruyne, Dolores Bouckaert, Ineke Nijssen, Nathalie Marie Verbeke, Martha Vandermeulen, Romy Louise Lauwers, Marjan De Schutter, Dorien De Clippel, Sam Louwyck, Wim Helsen
Katja (Line Pillet) is a 16-year-old orphan who has been sent to live in the attic of a Catholic hospital for the duration of her unplanned pregnancy. Set in Flanders in 1978, society’s answer to teenage pregnancy seems to be to pretend it does not exist. Most of the girls who are hidden away in the hospital’s attic are anxious to give their babies up for adoption — a plan that is wholeheartedly promoted by the nuns — but Katja naively expects to raise her baby with her former-teacher-turned-baby-daddy, Guy (Wim Helsen). Well, that is until she discovers the real reason that she has been sent to this secret location by Guy.
While in the attic, the nuns give the girls a surprising amount of freedom, allowing the them to find creative ways to distract themselves from the stress of their impending births, including with a sexed-up theatrical performance involving a Minotaur. All the while, Katja forms a special bond with her neighbor, Roxy (Charlotte De Bruyne), pledging to protect each other from whatever the nuns may have in store for their babies.
Patrice Toye’s Little Black Spiders is an alluring piece of cinema that exists in an almost dreamlike state of consciousness, as if the story is being told via the fantastical lens of Katja’s romanticized memories…until the story transforms into a horrible nightmare. With images that are drenched in sensuality, the film visually reflects the raging hormones of the teenage girls. Little Black Spiders is an emotional rollercoaster for Katja and for us, the audience. The highs are like pure ecstasy, while the lows soak our eyes in salty tears.
Little Black Spiders uncovers the horrors of sweeping unwanted pregnancies under the rug, opting to deal with the end result in secret, rather than finding a way to prevent the cause. Without having abortion as an option, the girls have no choice; they are forced to bring their pregnancies to full term, sometimes endangering their and/or their baby’s lives. The attic of this Catholic hospital is essentially just a baby factory using teenage girls as an unpaid workforce. There is no doubt that the church is making a profit from this endeavor, taking undisclosed sums of money from the families of the girls as well as the adoptive parents. With all of the money pouring in, the church has no reason to fix the problem of teenage pregnancy.