Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Euro 2012: Dutch Films

Entry #2 of the Euro 2012 Book & Film Spotlight looks at two Dutch films.

C'est déjà l'été (2010, Martijn Maria Smits)

C'est déjà l'été

The Dardennes style of filmmaking is often used to describe films that evoke the Belgian brothers' cinematic techniques. That technique usually involves an intense focus on a character struggling to make ends meet while stuck in a bleak urban landscape. However, in the case of C'est déjà l'été, the Dardennes style is a bit close to home because Martijn Maria Smits’ film is completely shot in Seraing, the industrial city that is home to the Dardennes and their films. Yet Martijn Maria Smits manages to stamp a unique imprint on his film because unlike the films of the Dardennes, C'est déjà l'été does not focus on a single character but instead features three generations in need of help and guidance. Jean (Patrick Descamps) is an unemployed father who isolates himself from his family and prefers to leave his two kids, a teenage son and elder daughter, on their own. The daughter also has a baby who she leaves with her younger brother when she goes on her screwing/drinking escapes. The multiple focus adds depth to the story and allows one to see the cyclical nature of the character's lives as each generation will inevitably fall into the same trap as the previous one leading to empty, unhappy and wasteful lives.

There is misery written all over the film but thankfully the worst imagined things don't occur, such as a death when a gun enters the story. Also, the bleakness does not become too overbearing mostly because the film is shot with a HD camera which renders the dirty surroundings of the industrial city with a poetic beauty.

Winter in Wartime (2008, Martin Koolhoven)

winter in wartime

The setting of a coming of age story in World War II manages to throw up plenty of ethical and moral hurdles for its young protagonist Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier). When Michiel finds a wounded British soldier, he providers shelter and food for the soldier. Helping the soldier feels like a right decision for Michiel but since he is surrounded by Germans, his kind gesture puts his life in danger, especially since he is unsure about who to trust. As per the title, there are plenty of sequences in the snow and some of these snowy shots offer the best moments of the film. A bridge crossing near the end is one such sequence where equal amounts of tension take place in both the foreground and background of the frame.

Summer to Winter

The title C'est déjà l'été, which translates to "It’s Always Summer", is clearly ironic given the lack of joy in the character’s lives. Of course, if summer means misery for the characters, then one dreads what winter would bring. As it turns out, the answers are provided when the dreaded snow arrives in Winter in Wartime.


Sam Juliano said...

Sachin, as you might remember I like WINTER IN WARTIME quite a bit and completely agree with you on the exceptional use of snow for some of the film's set pieces, including the one on the lake. Young Martijn Lakemaier gives an exceptional performance in his accelerated coming-of-age in this often tense and harrowing drama, one where you can feel the all-encompassing snow and cold. For the most part, director Koolhaven keeps the drama and action working together intensely.

I am really looking forward Smits' film, especially after your glowing appraisal and comparison to the Dardennes.

Beautiful work here!

Sachin said...

Thanks so much for your wonderful comment Sam. Yes, I do remember you liked the film which was a relief for me as I had already picked the film for this spotlight. So your praise comforted me that I had picked a worthy candidate.