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Matthijs van de Sande Bakhuyzen,
Lois de Jong,
Anna picks up her life-long, as a girl discouraged ambition to write. Preparing to the autobiographic formula of her favorite author, she taps into her, her ma's and two daughters' love and family life as well as her professional experience as midwife. Pondering these, mixed up with gore fantasy, only stirs past and present tension for all concerned. Written by
Director Willem van de Sande Bakhuyzen had already been diagnosed with terminal cancer when the movie was shot. Co-director Jean van de Velde was attracted to replace him if there would be a need for that. Van de Sande Bakhuysen did manage to complete the movie, but he died one day before its release. See more »
With Simon well over a year ago, I had high hopes for Dutch cinema. This was a great film, about genuine people dealing with all things life (and death) in a genuine way. At least it got some well-deserved recognition outside the Netherlands, although I'm not sure how the movie performed across the pond- but I guess it stirred things up quite a bit in the US because of its daring content.
Anyway, for those expecting Leef! to prolong the high standard set by Simon, prepare to be vastly disappointed. The film is incredibly pretentious in style and presentation. Why did it have to take 108 minutes of awkward dialogue and often pointless scenes to get to that point? I have no problem with it being pretentious, but not living up to it I do have a problem with. The camera-work and editing, especially in the first half, are overly artsy, sometimes hysterical and often completely unnecessary. On the contrary, it harms some of the (admittedly fine) performances in such a way that we cannot relate to the characters in any way, except for maybe Sybille, played by Anne-Wil Blankers, a great actress who is wholly out of place here. Jeroen Krabbé, always a treat, has a small part which is fine, but ruined by the horrific editing in that particular scene. A shame, I say.
The dialogue is typical Dutch theatre fare, in that it is overly pretentious and artificial, which is a major gripe I have with Dutch theatre anyway. Even though this might have worked better on stage, it's still far too stiff and and insignificant to make the audience relate to the characters on an emotional level. Why not just trim it down and get to the point? Being mundane is no sin if the delivery is good. Here we the see actors struggling with lines they themselves most likely found to be awkward, which explains the wooden acting on the whole, I guess.
Overall, what could have been a wonderful film about (family) life is a missed opportunity. This film gets lost in its own pretentiousness because of its lack of content and genuine emotional depth. Which, ultimately, to me, makes it a pointless affair.
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