Prince (2015)

Prince (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Sam de Jong
Country: Netherlands

Movie Review: “Prince” starts staunchly as an expressive coming-of-age tale, but finishes as a forgettable, self-content phony. Set in a small neighborhood located in the suburbs of Amsterdam, the drama follows the complicated life of the 17-year-old Dutch-Moroccan, Ayoub (Ayoub Elasri), who lives with his depressed mother and easygoing half-sister. He occasionally meets with his homeless, drug-addicted father, a helpless Moroccan who religiously expects him to bring money for the ‘stuff’. Assuming himself as the man of the house, Ayoun acts sweetly and supportively toward his fragile mom, who never asks questions and keeps looking for the perfect man, and super protective toward his handsome sis, whose excessive freedom leads her to hang out with a trio of bad guys. One of these thugs is Ronny, a violent boaster whose little brother, Franky, is best friends with Ayoub. Despite of participating in some of their dirty work, Ayoub gives rise to mistrust and is treated with contempt; firstly, because he’s seen as an inferior due to his descent, and secondly, because he has a crush on Laura, the girlfriend of one of the bullies. Often humiliated by this small group of gangsters, Ayoub’s best wish would be rapidly building muscles out of his skinny body. As he knows this won’t come true, he comes to the conclusion that his only chance of gaining their respect and conquer Laura’s heart is through the ‘king’ of the thugs, Kalpa (the musician Freddy Tratlehner), a creepy, uncontrolled freak who whimsically runs a sausage factory in his own house and exhibits his over-the-top Lamborghini throughout the streets. One tempestuous night will be enough for the ascension and glorification of Ayoub, crowned ‘prince’ on the first call to work for the untouchable Kalpa. The first-time director, Sam de Jong, has a knack for setting up maniacal moments, combining them with a vigorous score in order to establish stylishly frenzied scenes. The main frustration comes from the film's script, in particular the final act, which abruptly changes the tones from chaotic to cheesy, and the scenarios from rowdy to lenient.

It's All So Quiet (2013)

It's All So Quiet (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Nanouk Leopold
Country: Netherlands / Germany

Movie Review: The fifth feature film from Dutch helmer Nanouk Leopold is a resentful and quiet drama inspired by Gerbrand Bakker’s debut novel “The Twin”, depicting homosexual repression and rural isolation. Helmer (Jeroen Willems) is a 55 year-old solitary farmer who, not with signs of impatience, waits for his father’s death. Visibly embittered, Helmer is stuck into a life he didn’t choose, having to take care of his bedridden and demanding father, and do all the work in the dairy farm by himself. He feels attracted to a milk trader of his own age but always resists to his approaching attempts. When his father gets worse he moves him upstairs, so he can rent the available room to a young farmer, Henk, whose presence will try to break the ice of Helmer’s self-denied homosexuality. The main character presents a bitter coldness and carries so much frustration that is almost impossible to feel any sympathy for him. A little wickedness is particularly visible when he refuses to call a doctor for his father, or tries to avoid the visit of a friendly neighbor, Ada (the unique feminine presence), or seems reluctant in turning on the heating for the room upstairs. Vague insinuations are suggested about their difficult past relationship but “It’s All So Quiet” becomes as painful to watch as the lives of the ones it depicts. Its immutable sad tone characterized by a slow pace and absence of any kind of thrill won’t be for everyone’s appreciation, only increasing the lack of human warmness. It’s indeed an interesting story, yet very arduous to endure.

Wolf (2013)

Wolf (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jim Taihuttu
Country: Netherlands

Movie Review: “Wolf” is a rowdy drama that tells the story of Moroccan Majid Zamari, a talented kick boxer who has no reasons to be satisfied with his life in Netherlands, falling in a downward spiral of drugs and organized crime. Set in black and white, the first solo film by emergent director Jim Taihuttu, adopts a violent posture supported by a solid dramatic side that explains not only the anger and frustration of the main character, but also his sort of immoral and untamed behavior. So many bad things are happening in Majid’s life - his father doesn’t speak to him, being ashamed of his conduct; his older brother is dying in the hospital; he is unable to be a good example for his little younger brother who shows to have problems in school and is getting out of the track; his best friend, Adil, with whom he usually hangs out along the hood, is definitely not a good influence; his former girlfriend, Tessa, is now turned into a prostitute; and due to a great ambition and the will to protect his family’s interests, Majid starts working for the Turk dealer, Hakan, the feared header of a criminal gang. Despite the boasting airs exhibited here and there, the film is simultaneously vibrant, brutal, and depressive, with the latter being enhanced by establishing shots of the Dutch suburbs. Actor Marwan Kenzari, chosen once again by Taihuttu after the participation in his 2011 road movie, “Rabat”, makes proof of his talent, turning “Wolf” into a very credible odyssey into the Dutch multicultural underworld.

Borgman (2013)

Borgman (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Alex van Warmerdam
Country: Netherlands / Belgium

Movie Review: Nominated for Cannes’ Palm d’Or, “Borgman”, is a cold-blooded thriller coming from Netherlands that will leave you disconcerted, functioning as a psychological study of human evilness and showing the power of manipulation. The film didn’t disappoint after a magnificent start, when a raging priest and two other men embark in a manhunt, finding a camouflaged hole in the forest ground that served as a hideaway for Camiel Borgman (Jan Bijvoet), a merciless criminal who operates conjointly with his gang of four followers. Borgman, on the run, infiltrates within an unbalanced upper-class family, taking advantage of the unhappy and insecure Marina (Hadewych Minis), and setting a strange bond with her kids, especially the younger daughter, Isolde. A sinister game starts to be played, keeping the high levels of suspense and spreading a torrent of madness, here presented in bizarre forms together with sarcastic humor. The story lives pretty much of unexpected turns that kept the viewer searching for answers, deliberately left unexplained in order to baffle us and increase our curiosity. Filmmaker van Warmerdam directed with proficiency and refinement (evoking Pablo Larraín’s morbidness, dark humor, and cynicism), and also appears as an actor, playing one of Borgman’s gang fellows. In this hymn to insanity, Jan Bijvoet and Hadewych Minis were fabulous in their roles, playing ‘the game’ with diligence and daring to convert “Borgman” into a cult-film.

Matterhorn (2013)

Matterhorn (2013)
Directed by: Diederik Ebbinge
Country: Netherlands

Review: “Matterhorn” is a Dutch drama with hints of comedy that marks the directorial debut of Diederik Ebbinge on feature film. The story centers on Fred (Ton Kas), a lonely grieving man in his 50’s who lost his wife and child, and whose life since then became tedious. Fred has the strict look of a British man, being a devout follower of his religion and showing some obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Certain day, he decides to dwell Theo (René Van’t Hof), a homeless man who became mentally handicapped after an accident, but then will have to deal with the bad-mouth parishioners, and especially with his own conscience and reality of the past. Even with a sort of stiffness in its development, this low-key comedy showed some charisma thanks to the actors’ commitment, but the humorous absurdness that came out of its plot was not always rewarding. The fact that Fred was considering Theo as a substitute of both wife and son, whom he misses so much, is perfectly acceptable, but I can’t say the same about the cheesy episode involving a jealous neighbor who has been in love with Fred’s deceased wife. With several ups and downs along the way, “Matterhorn” ended up in great style due to the unexpected revelations disclosed, and by stirring some emotion. It won the audience’s heart in Moscow and Rotterdam Film Fest.


De Marathon (2012)

De Marathon (2012)
Directed by: Diederick Koopal
Country: Netherlands

Review: This Dutch film mixes mockery and sentiment with good intentions but not always in the best way, to depict the adventures of a garage owner and his four employees, when they discover that their job is at risk due to a huge tax debt. The solution found consisted in participating in Rotterdam marathon and try to obtain sponsorships, but the plan ended up in a risky bet. To delineate the characters, the film switches between the good-disposition at work and the troubles at home. Gerard, the garage owner, finds out he has cancer and is struggling to give the best education to his adolescent son; Kees has to deal with the fanaticism of his religious wife; Nico, unable to have a relationship with a woman, starts to become aware of his homosexuality; Leo left his unfaithful wife and now has a child at his charge; the Egyptian Youssoef is the garage’s freshman and will be the team’s trainer. In this intermittent comedy, which created more predictable situations than fresh ones, we could sense the enjoyment of the actors while playing their parts. Unfortunately some strained scenes in the final moments, restrained the prospects of “De Marathon” become more successful. Even trying to rise above its possibilities, the result is a regular dramatic comedy that lives from the comical facet of its characters.

Kauwboy (2012)

Directed by: Boudewijn Koole
Country: Netherlands

Summary: Jojo is a kid passing through a hard time.
Review: “Kauwboy” is a compelling movie about grief and death. Tells the story of a 10 year-old kid, who was unable to cope with his mother’s death. Having a hard time in home with his dad, who was also deeply affected by the event and didn’t know how to act properly, the child will be left alone in the process of accepting the reality. In this case, taking care of a baby bird will be the key to solve the problem, but we got the scary notion on how this may take a long, long time, especially when the people around aren't much of a help. The acting of young Rick Lens was genuine and despite of the sudden change in his father's behavior near the end, all seemed very natural.
Relevant awards: Feature film (Berlin); special mention (Buenos Aires).

Code Blue (2011)

Directed by: Urzsula Antoniak
Country: Netherlands

Plot: Marian, a middle aged nurse, devotes herself to her patients like a saint. 
Review: “Code Blue” is depressing and unbalanced as its main character. Marian is a lonely nurse with a sexual frustration to solve. That frustration will lead her to humiliation in many ways. She is kind to her patients, which are old people in the verge of dying. Often, she even gives a hand for helping them to pass away but the guilt and discomfort of doing that is reflected in her life. The second feature film in two years by the Polish-Dutch director Urzsula Antoniak is very painful to watch and leaves you with a sensation of sadness and uneasiness. Vague on many aspects, some crucial situations seemed purposely created just for the pleasure of shocking. 
Relevant awards: Best cinematography (Nederlands)

Lena (2011)

Directed by: Christophe Van Rompaey
Country: Netherlands / Belgium

Plot: Lena is a lonely, adolescent girl, who starts a relationship with the popular but unreliable Daan.
Review: "Lena" is totally awkwardness. We can hardly find anyone or anything sane in it. Although the plot gathers conditions to make "Lena" enticing, I really couldn't feel any empathy with any of its characters. We may say this is a movie where the sun never shines. So, all you can find here are odd behaviors by miserable characters, sick relationships and much sorrow. The direction didn’t stand out but Emma Levie’s performance was pretty solid, making our attention directed to her upcoming work, “Snowpiercer”, directed by the Korean Joon Ho Bong. This is the second feature film from Cristophe Van Rompaey, after the fresher “Moscow, Belgium”(2008).
Relevant awards: Best actress (Fantasporto, Portugal).

Hemel (2011)

Directed by: Sacha Polak
Country: Netherlands

Plot: During her nightly escapades Hemel searches for the difference between sex and love.
Review: Some substance was found in this character’s study but with savorless results. A disturbed girl sleeps every night with a different man, always searching for something new but feeling nothing more than indifference. An exception to this, seems to be a married man. The movie also emphasizes the odd and dependent relationship with her father, with whom she lives. “Hemel” is all about sex, loneliness and family (or the lack of it), making use of a rambling structure and pale imagery. 
Relevant awards: FIPRESCI Prize (Berlin).

Nothing Personal (2009)

Realizado por: Urszula Antoniak
País: Reino Unido/Holanda

Filme minimalista de estreia para a realizadora de origem polaca radicada na Holanda, Urszula Antoniak. Anne deixa a Holanda com rumo à Irlanda, após um relacionamento falhado, a fim de levar uma vida de isolamento. Após uns dias a vaguear, encontra uma casa habitada por Martin, um eremita, que se "escondeu" do mundo após a morte da mulher. Doente e muito mais velho que Anne, Martin propõe oferecer comida por trabalho no campo, desempenhando um papel quase paternal e ganhando-lhe a confiança. Após combinarem que não fariam perguntas sobre o passado, começará a surgir entre ambos uma relação de empatia.

Winter in Wartime (2009)

Realizado por: Martin Koolhoven
País: Holanda

Durante a Segunda Grande Guerra, um jovem holandês de 14 anos vê-se envolvido na Resistência, após ajudar um piloto britânico ferido, a escapar aos nazis. Após o assassinato do seu pai, prefeito da pequena cidade holandesa em que habitam, este jovem vai contar com o apoio de um tio que se encontra de visita.
Apesar das (relativas) surpresas no final e de ser um filme muito popular no seu país de origem, não me despertou grande interesse.

Rembrandt J'accuse (2008)

Realizado por: Peter Greenaway
País: Holanda

Documentário sobre o mais controverso e famoso quadro de Rembrandt, intitulado "the night watch".
O também controverso Greenaway apresenta as suas teorias sobre a origem deste quadro e as razões que levaram à posterior queda do pintor holandês do século XVII.
É indubitavelmente um interessante trabalho de investigação que culmina num cinema criativo.