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The Discovery Of Heaven * Jeroen Krabbé * 2001

De Ontdekking van de Hemel (1992) by Harry Mulisch (1927-) is seen as one of the highlights of modern Dutch literature. I never read novels and I certainly wasn’t planning on reading this 900+ pages book by Mulisch. Even when the Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbé (1944-) decided to make a film of the book, I had no intention to see it. But since I don’t go through life alone, I got to see the two hour film anyway.
The film begins by showing how two men meet and become best friends. Even when they run into a girl they alternally (and simultaneously) have a relationship with, things keep going well between the two. Then the three have a car accident, Ada (the girl) falls into coma while pregnant (but who is the father?), gives birth and remains in a coma while her son (Quinten) is raised by her mother and Max and not by Onno (who is thought to be the father). All right and well, not? But as the boy grows up, he has dreams of his mother and of a strange building and the story turns towards a vague semi-religious Dan Brown-like plot and the ‘other people’ having conversations prove to be (arch)angels running life on earth and having nefarious plans with mankind. I kind of lost it there. The first part of the film is an alright drama, but the second half is a bit far-fetched. With the whole Da Vinci hype, I can see why this book is so popular. For those who can’t get thought Mulisch’s writing-style or just want to see a film, this Dutch, but very well English spoken, film isn’t too bad of a choice.

Il Decameron * Pier Paolo Pascolini * 1971

Apparently just on DVD this old Italian film of the famous Decamoron of Giovani Boccacio (1313-1375). Different ‘stories of love’ following eachother without notification, running through eachother and being not too interesting. The acting is rather overdone, Italian old films have the bad habbit of not ‘going synchrone’ (images and sound) and the blurry story isn’t too exiting. Maybe just a film for people who like classics.

Der Untergang * Oliver Hirschbiegel * 2004

I would (should) have seen tbis film before, but for some reason it took until I could lend a copy. I am no fond of war-films and this one isn’t really an exception. I suppose you all know by now that this film shows the last days of the reign of Hitler. The film is based on the ‘documentary’ (a long interview) with Traudl Junge. From it seems that Junge wrote a book that was the base for this film. Also she is supposed to have appeared in other documentaries, while I understood that she wanted to give one and final interview before she passed away. The interview was shown on TV under the title Im Toten Winkel (which is reviewed), late 2002, half a year after Junge died. In the interview ‘Hitlers Sekretärin’ talks about how she came to join the nazi administration and how she experienced the last period of the reign of Hitler. She claims she didn’t know about the horrors of the outside, because she was ‘im toten Winkel’ (‘in the dead angle’). The interview may be a boring and tiring watch, but I found it much more interesting and informative than “Der Untergang”.
The film opens with Junge’s job interview and then immediately jumps to the last hours of WWII. The story of “Der Untergang” is not entirely based on Junge’s information, because there are also scenes where Junge could never have been present. We mostly see the bunker in which Hitler lives and gives his orders. We see him loosing his mind (if he ever had it!) and how his subjects grow against him. Because Hitler is also shown in ‘normal conditions’ (playing with his dogs, being charming towards his secretary, being with Eva Braun) this film was/is controversial because it shows that Hitler was a mere human being. Indeed he can be funny at times, but in general the film shows him to be the power-driven maniac with no regard for his servants or the German people which he most likely was. Less common are the scenes in which Hitler and Braun get married and shortly after commit suicide. The scene in which Hitler says goodbye to everybody close to him is the only scene which may rise a little bit of emotion with the viewer. Strange to see (shocking even maybe) is the devotion to the man by -for example- mrs. Goebbels who even kills her children because she can’t imagine a world without national-socialism.
Filmographically I didn’t find the film too much. The acting is a bit dull, the filming is (probably on purpose) with a distance (in the meaning of: too neutral). Not too great and again I suggest the interview with Junge for the more informative part.

Dancer In The Dark * Lars Von Trier * 2000

It took a long time before I finally got to see this film. I did get the Selmasongs cd of Björk when it was just out. However I like some of Von Triers works, I don’t like all of them. Also I heard that “Dancer In The Dark” is a musical and quite depressive, so I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought anymore. A while ago I saw the DVD for a very low price and I couldn’t let it go. Still it took a while before I watched it.

I suppose most of you know the story behind the film? Von Trier wanted to make the film with a soundtrack of Björk. The two of them could get along so well that Björk eventually got the main part for which she even got a Golden Palm award.

Anyway, “Dancer In The Dark” isn’t as much a musical as I expected it to be, no “Moulin Rouge” for sure. It is a rather long film about the poor Cszech immigrant Selma who lives with her young son in a trailer on the American countryside. Besides being uneducated she and her son suffer from a heritable disease that causes them to slowly go blind. Selma saves all the money she can to be able to have her son operated. Herefor she really doesn’t spend a penny too much.

In all the misery Selma halfway lives in a dreamworld in which she sings in musicals. The music is really well incorporated in the film by the way, with sounds of dripping blood or machines as rhythm. The misery gets worse and worse though. Her befriended neighbour steals Selmas money and in the process of getting it back, she kills him. In a trial she is sentenced to death by hanging, but first she arranged her sons operation.

Quite a strange film overall. Original as more of Von Triers works. It is quite well-done, but definately no feel-good movie!

Il Conformista * Bernardo Bertolucci * 1970

An old Italian film about the times that Hitler started to reign over Germany and Mussolini over Italy. The film is about an Italian secret agent who became a fascist at a quite early age. He marries a naive young woman in his aim to become ‘normal’. Their honeymoon is to Paris, but Marcello’s actual assignment is not pleasure, but the assassination of his old philosophy-teacher Quadri who fleed Italy when the fascists took over power. The professor’s wife is Anna Quadri old love who also enchants Giulia, Marcello’s wife. Eventually the killing of both the professor and his wife take place, Giulia finds out at around the end of the film the fascist regime falls and Marcello looses his conviction.
An old film, eh? Not too great.

La Classe De Neige * Claude Miller * 1998

“La Classe De Neige” (“snow class”) is a French film that is compared to the brilliant “The Butcher Boy” by Neil Jordan (1997). Indeed both films are about unwordly young boys living in a violent fantasy world. Where “The Butcher Boy” is a grim comedy “La Classe De Neige” is more of a drama.
Nicholas is a boy with an over protective father and will go to the mountains with his school class to sky. His father doesn’t trust the bus-driver and wants to bring Nicholas himself. The boy leaves his bag in his father’s car and shy as he is, he has to loan pyjamas from a class-mate. This is the wild Hodkann but different as they are, they become friends. Nicholas has frightening visions/dreams and a vivid imagination and just as his head must seem, it is hard to tell what is truely happening and what is only inside Nicholas’ head. All over the film suggestions are made about the boy’s father, but only at the very end you will get to know if Hodkann’s suspicions are correct.
All in all a nice movie, but I like “The Butcher Boy” better.

Charlotte Gray * Gillian Armstrong * 2001

Hm, Cate Blanchett even got me to watch a war-movie, a genre I am not fond off. I thought the story was different when I rented this film. Anyway, Charlotte Gray is a Brittish woman who used to study in Paris. In WWII her boyfriend -who is a pilot- goes down in France and Gray voluntarily leaves her own country to try to help to win the war as secret agent in France. Some not too sensational adventures take place. I think this film wants to show how a normal person tried to help in the war and did not come out too heroic. Not that this is a boring film by the way, but it is just a drama.

Breaking The Waves * Lars von Trier * 1996

A cheap DVD was made available just before “Dogville” came into the cinemas. “Breaking The Waves” is also a long film (158 min) and also divided in chapters. Also it is not too cheerfull and a bit too long.

Bess is a girl that is “not right in her head” who grew up in an extremely religious community in Scotland. She marries a ‘man of the world’ from an oil rig who gets paralysed after an accident. Bess’ faith in God (who she speaks with) and Jan (her husband) is tested.

Good acting, original story, but a bit too long.

Bound * Andy and Larry Wachowski * 1996

Shame on me! I hadn’t heard of this movie I believe until recently. It is made by the brother Wachowski who later made the brilliant sci-fi film The Matrix. Bound is very much different from that film though.

Bound is an intelligent thriller with a very good story. Often it is compared to Seven, The Usual Suspects, etc., but I don’t agree with people who say that. Where the other films make you wonder “whodunnit” until the end, in Bound this is obvious from the first second. Also Bound is just a story in one line with here and there a flashback, but nothing going back and forth to make you confused.
The story is about the beautiful ex-convict Corki (Gina Gershon) who is seduced by the also beautiful maffia wife Violet (Jennifer Tilly). Violet has grown tired from the violent maffia life and wants to get away. She seduces the just-out-of-jail Corky who got some plumbers-work in the appartment next door. The plan is to get the 2 million dollar that Violets husband Ceasar (Joe Pantoliano) has to give to the big boss Gino Marzzone (Richard Sarafian) and put the blame on someone else, being Marzzones son Johnnie (Christopher Maloni). Of course the plan doesn’t work out the way the women wanted, which makes the story turn and twist in unexpected directions.

All in all quite a nice film, but I don’t think it’s all that special.

Bom Yeoreum Gaeul Gyeoul Geurigo Bom * Ki-Duk Kim * 2003

spring, summer, fall, winter… and spring>

This is the second film of Ki-Duk Kim that I see and comes closer to what I expected when I bought “Seom”. “Spring, Summer…” is about a monk who lives on an artificial island in a lake (again!) with his pupil. He teaches his pupil the lessons of life. When a sick girl of the pupil’s age comes to the monk to be cured from her illness, the pupil and her fall in love and the pupil eventually follows her to ‘the world of men’ only to return disappointed. “Spring, Summer…” is a very slow film with beautifull images and (Buddist) lessons for life. This is a very ‘spiritual’ film shot in a ‘meditative’ style. Some aspects of “Seom” come back in this film, but not the ‘gory parts’! A very nice watch, available on DVD for a very nice price.