Dutchman Lucien runs a boxing gym, as if 'his' kids' future were largely his responsibility. Since his wife and daughter died in a car accident, fro which he needlessly blames himself, he rather neglects sole surviving son Mitchell. The teen knave largely leads his own life, but conflict always lingers. Even the gym folk side with Mitchell when Lucien attacks his son just for wearing a tutu at an informal garden barbecue.Written by
This feature debut by David Lammers is a very slow film, especially the first 25 minutes require a lot of patience. The film was advertised as "A film about a summer in Amsterdam-Noord". Perhaps that's the most accurate description I can think of, because there's not much story or dialog and the film mostly consists of nicely lensed silent images of Amsterdam. The central character is Lucien (Raymond Thiry), owner of a boxing school in Amsterdam-Noord, to whom the training and well-being of the kids he's coaching means everything, but he's estranging his 15-year old son Mitchel (Dai Carter). After a violent confrontation with his son, he slowly descends into solitude and everything he cared for is falling apart.
Together with GUERNSEY, DIEP and HET ZWIJGEN, this is the fourth and last film in a film project, called "De Oversteek", in collaboration with the VPRO and the Dutch Filmfonds, to give young filmmakers the chance to make a feature film. I think it's time the search for other talent continues, because this is yet another inept attempt at making a feature film. And why do these four films all feel strangely the same? Slowly-paced, weak or barely scripted at all, they just feel like they all have been post doctored by a third party who tried to polish their look.
Filmed during high summer, Amsterdam-Noord has never looked this appealing and David Lammers clearly shows some cinematic talent. For instance, the scene in which Mitchel is driving on his brand new bicycle in a ballet dress looks beautiful. A strangely surreal and memorable scene, but the endless string of nice images wears thin after a while. After twenty minutes or so, the relationship between father and son is spelled out, and from then on, nothing happens. Not a big help are the one-dimensional performances by Dai Carter and Raymond Thiry. In a film like this, without much plot or dialog, the casting of the two leads is paramount. They are almost constantly on-screen without much dialog, so most of the time we have to root for their emotions through silent expressions. In the case of Lucien he is such an unsympathetic character, it's hard to care for him at all. Dai Carter, who is on screen in seemingly endless close-ups, doesn't express anything and gives one of the most distancing performances I have ever seen. But what ultimately sinks this, is some embarrassingly awful dialog. One particular reconciliation scene between Lucien and Mitchel was actually quite powerful and moving, but is ruined by some totally unnecessary chit-chat about coffee that ruins the whole impact of the scene.
Lammers is primarily a director of silent images. Writing or handling actors and dialog, doesn't seem to interest him at all. In an interview he gave on Dutch television, I saw a very shy young man, whose main interest was, so he said, capturing the beauty of Amsterdam-Noord. When asked what the film was about, he didn't seem to know himself. He's no dummy though and brought former pin-up girl Monique Sluyter, who has a small part in the film, with him for some extra publicity. Anyway, he might have made some nicely filmed shorts and some points for the cinematography are in place, but for a 90 minute feature somewhat more material might come in handy. Dai Carter apparently has quit acting and started a career in the military, where his wooden expressions are probably much more appreciated.
Camera Obscura --- 4/10
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