The "De mannetjesmaker" ("The image builder") is a typical art-house film and to my knowledge the first Dutch film about politicians. Apparently director Hylkema is inspired by the theme, for recently he produced another one, "Den Uyl en de affaire Lockheed" about a scandal in the royal family. De Mannetjesmaker describes the downfall of a political adviser, the profession that we now call spin doctors. The story is based on true facts, namely the life of Ben Korsten (in the film he is called Mertens). The events unfold in the late sixties (1965-1969), when the catholic peoples party is in power. Like everywhere else, the Dutch catholic bastion is based on corporatism, and the church, politics and business are intimately intertwined. Mertens becomes the adviser of several catholic ministers (in government, that is). He craves for power, but his mental state is fragile. In essence the theme of the film is the vanity and feelings of grandeur, which abound in the highest administrative circles. In spite of the strong catholic moral, the leaders indulge in corruption and adultery. Mertens becomes a pivot in this exclusive community, but he can not bear the pressure, and collapses.A medical superintendent supplies him with pills, and later shots of morphine. Eventually Mertens becomes addicted, and his insatiable desire for more morphine starts to interfere with his work. In the community of selfcentred leaders this is a mortal sin, and Mertens is deserted by his benefactors. Unfortunately Mertens has an irrational disgust for clinics for drug addicts, since he fears to be locked up forever. When he is finally admitted, he is already dying (or suicidal; this is not quite clear). The theme of drug addiction is typical for the pertinent period, when the taboo on drug abuse was finally lifted. This theme is also exploited in the film "Dokter Pulder zaait papavers" (poppys), which was produced by Haanstra a few years earlier. The cast of "De mannetjesmaker" contains several interesting players. The main character Gerard Thoolen had been active in the Werktejater, a Dutch collective that used improvisation to explore social themes, sometimes with participation of the audience (see for instance the films "Camping" and "Toestanden"). Jaap van de Merwe, who plays a minor role, was a left wing cabaret performer. He also wrote books, for instance a voluminous book about protest and labor songs. If you enjoy films about politicians, another recent Dutch produce is "Vox populi" by Terstall. And "Nynke", about early Dutch socialism.
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