God is disappointed with the human race and wants his stone tablets back. An angel is given the assignment and, with Gabriëls help, tries to manipulate several humans on earth to get his ...
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11 year old Amsterdam schoolboy Ciske, a scamp with a heart of gold, causes havoc in the classroom pouring ink over his teacher. Yet when a polio-crippled boy joins the class Ciske is one ... See full summary »
Danny de Munk,
Willeke van Ammelrooy,
Herman van Veen
God is disappointed with the human race and wants his stone tablets back. An angel is given the assignment and, with Gabriëls help, tries to manipulate several humans on earth to get his job done. But humans have a will of their own...Written by
After all the auditions for 16-year-old Quinten were done without much success, Jeroen Krabbé stared out of the window and Neil Newbon happened to pass by. "That's what Quinten should look like" he mumbled, not yet knowing the guy was an actor. See more »
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** It is a complete riddle to me why the press is so unanimously full of praise about this film. The hype surrounding this movie by Jeroen Krabbe reminds me of the hype surrounding the book on which the movie is based, Harry Mulisch's "The Discovery of Heaven". The book triggered hysterical reactions in the press. One of the leading Dutch literary critics, Carel Peeters, was so taken with the book that he dedicated not one review to it, but a series of reviews spanning several issues of the Vrij Nederland, a rather serious Dutch weekly magazine. The public reaction to so much hype was predictable: the book became a national best-seller. Almost everyone interested in Dutch literature has read the book, and I guess that this is the reason why so many people are so favorable of the film: the film brings back memories of the book, and obviously these are fond memories. However, that doesn't make this picture a good one.
I for one did not read the book, so there were no memories to cloud my eyes. I was sad to discover that this emperor isn't wearing any clothes whatsoever.
The main story is rather simple. God has decided to unilaterally cancel His contract with mankind, and He wants the stone tablets with the ten commandments returned to heaven. Instead of just sending down an angel, heaven chooses the rather awkward method of bullying a couple of humans into producing and raising a child that must retrieve the tablets and return them to heaven. I am not giving away too much plot here, because we are told so in the first five minutes of the film. This is the first major mistake, because the viewer's initial curiosity as to what the film is about is satisfied immediately, bereaving the movie of what could have been the most important tension arch. The movie is full of this kind of tension killers, which makes it predictable and rather dull to watch. That would all be fine if there was enough to compensate for this shortcoming: e.g. fine actors playing believable characters having sparkling conversations and handling interesting situations in surprising ways.
I am sad to say that the film falls short in these respects too. Although the acting is bearable, it is certainly not uplifting. I agree with the majority of reviews that Stephen Fry does a decent job (although Diana Quick as Ada's mum steals the show, IMHO). However the characters are all as flat as a Dutch dime. The director is too busy stressing their respective peculiarities that he forgets to turn them into people of flesh and blood. He makes some feeble attempts to flesh out Max a bit, by shedding some light on a tragedy that tore his family apart, but instead of making Max more believable, it only alienates him more from the audience.
This lack of real characters in turn adds to the sterile atmosphere of the movie, which piles contrived situation upon contrived situation. Take for example the scene where Onno and Max meet their angel-like love-interest Ada: she happens to be sitting in a second-hand bookstore, practicing Janacek on the cello. If you are allergic this kind of snobbish adolescent fantasies, you better run for cover, because the film is drenched with insipid allusions. The director and scriptwriter are constantly proving their wit--with a sledgehammer in case you should miss it. It lends the film an air of intellectual graveness, and betrays grand pretensions that it ultimately doesn't live up to.
The grand thing it does live up to is a pompous finale, Hollywood style, which seems to be mandatory nowadays for every movie that wants to play with the big boys. I guess that's what mr. Krabbe must have been thinking, because at the end of the movie he treats us to a ludicrous display of outdated computer graphics. It leaves the viewer blinking his eyes in utter bewilderment and asking himself: this was meant to be a joke, right?
Are there any good things to be said about this movie? Let me think. Well, it was very expensive. It cost about 13 million euro, making it the most expensive Dutch film in history. So it proves that we can make expensive films too. On the other hand, if you want a film that proves that the Dutch can make beautiful, witty and profound films as well, go see Mike van Diem's "Karakter" or Paul Verhoeven's "Turks Fruit", and, please, forget about this film.
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