Merksplas is a prison in Belgium for the mentally ill – ”The Cesspool” as one inmate puts it. The sentences in Merksplas are not for life, but there’s no guarantee of ever getting out. The date of release is always the same: 31/12/9999. It applies for murderers and pyromaniacs alike; no one has been held criminally liable in court. Activities are scarce, and no treatment or therapy is available. The ward is not for living, but for surviving.

9999 is both beautiful and painful. Rising up to the level of Frederick Wiseman’s Titicut Follies (1967), it portrays the violence of exclusion through silence. Refraining from commentary and sentimentality, 9999’s minimalist palette draws a non-space where time stands still. The slow imagery conveys the inmates’ experience in gripping detail: beyond the bars, a tree takes shape amidst the fog, no birds are singing. From somewhere deep echoes the universal hope to be free – at least from oneself.

The young and talented director Ellen Vermeulen forces us to consider the human rights of the mentally ill in modern Europe. The film has received the ”Amnesty approved” label.

Text: Saara Tamminen / Translation: Tapio Reinekoski

Director Ellen Vermeulen will be present at the screening on Wednesday.

Language: Dutch
Subtitles: English



  • Director: Ellen Vermeulen
  • Country: Belgium
  • Year: 2014
  • Length: 70 min
  • Age limit: S
  • Format: DCP
  • Cinematography: Jonathan Wannyn
  • Editing: Dieter Diependaele
  • Audio: Raf Enckels
  • Production: Lise Van den Briel / Associate Directors


  • Kinopalatsi 8: Wed 28.1. at 20:30
  • Kinopalatsi 7: Fri 30.1. at 13:00