Nothing Personal (2009) Poster

(I) (2009)

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8/10
The art of being alone
ochichornye31 December 2009
A very promising cinema debut. Though most of it is set on the Irish West coast, the whole film has an Eastern European feel to it: sparse dialog, little music, beautiful still shots of landscape and interiors and relentlessly grim weather. I don't find the choice of location at all artificial. If you want to get away from one of the most densely populated countries in the world on a budget, the West of Ireland doesn't seem such a bad choice.

This is a film not so much about loneliness, but about being alone. While the female lead clearly had a very negative experience before the story begins (loss of a loved one or traumatic end of a relationship?), one senses that her being alone in this remote corner of Europe is something she deliberately chose and eventually prefers. It seems male viewers have problems with her arrogance and rudeness, while women (including yours truly) find her strong and full of character. Stephen Rea provides a perfect match for her impulsive behaviour and injects a gentle sense of humour. Fortunately their developing 'relationship' avoids romantic clichés.

I like films that leave you guessing about the characters' inner thoughts, motives and actions. Combined with the powerful imagery, it makes this one linger in the mind long after the house lights have switched on. Although I found the last scene puzzling and out of place and while the storyline might have been tightened up here and there, I am certainly keen to see what Urszula Antoniak comes up with in her next project.
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7/10
Plenty in Nothing Personal
p-stepien17 January 2011
Based on the Locarno credentials of this movie (garnering six awards at that event, not counting many others) I decided to take a dive into some of my expatriate's work abroad. A very simple tale about Anne (Lotte Verbaek), who cuts away from everything connected to her previous life in Holland (most likely due to the death of her husband, but we can only speculate the real reason) and backpacks to Ireland. There she comes across an elderly fisherman, Martin, (the brilliant Stephen Rea), who lives in solitude in a desolate location close to the sea. On their encounter Anne is extremely rash, even rude, being in a state devoid of any warmth or friendliness. However they soon agree to an uneasy truce: Anne will work for food, but as long as no personal matters are touched.

Set in untiringly beautiful locations of the Irish countryside the movie always manages to remain an eye-catcher (especially a fascinating peninsular, which is the main location of the movie), which helps keep the focus on the story itself, despite its very slowly unwinding rudimentary plot. Emotionwise I wasn't however fully convinced by Lotte Verbaek and additionally I did feel that several scenes/dialogues seemed not to fit the overall tone and logic of the movie. Nonetheless the whole story rings with a somber truth, as emotions and feelings catch the characters unawares, which leads to an absolutely heart-wrenching finale (the scene from the poster). Very simply crafted and set in the most basic human feelings it really has an unbelievable capacity to capture the attention and linger in memory.

Despite it's flaws it remains a stunning, if very reserved, watch, which shows the immense potential of Polish-born Urszula Antoniak.
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10/10
sacred like a hymn, an astonishingly humbling and majestic film
So I was quite pleased to see this, which, unbeknownst to me, has been a bit of a festival darling, sweeping all before it at Locarno winning six awards including the FIPRESCI, with multiple wins at the Nederlands Film Festival, and top prize at Marrakech.

Director Urszula Antoniak was in attendance and said that this was her first film, it was very personal to her, and it was a perfect expression for her, she said she had all the means and finances she wanted and described it as a "work of love".

Anne (Lotte Verbeek) has decided to start her life again and leave Holland, the milieu of what we can speculate has been a messy divorce, with nothing other than the clothes she is wearing and a backpack. She is in a whirlwind of pain and anger and has decided to reject the world and all people. She is quite rude to the few people she comes across. So she wanders through extremely beautiful and desolate Irish countryside scraping an existence.

Eventually she chances across the most awesomely stunning peninsular hideaway, which took my breath away (location is so important in cinema). She is very rude and forms an uneasy symbiosis with Martin who gives her food in return for manual labour. He agrees to not ask her any questions, and make no demands from her outside of their contract.

They're pretty much the only two characters we see. Anyway the relationship obviously develops but in the most fantastic and eventually heart-floodingly moving way, that renews Anne's faith in humanity and allows her to rejoin the living. I think the ending stuff is pretty iconic, and so well crafted in terms of plotting, so delicate. Very much of a feather with Esther Rots film Can See Through Skin which also won awards at the Nederlands Film Festival.

I felt pretty much humbled afterwards.
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7/10
Promising debut, but one with little resonance
mensch-228 September 2009
Lotte Verbeek and Stephen Rea, two highly accomplished actors, take on this thoughtful two- hander from Polish-Dutch débutant Urszula Antoniak about loneliness and the difficulty of human connection.

Verbeek plays an unnamed Dutch woman who finds herself in Ireland after the end of her marriage and, having opted for an itinerant life free from life's trappings, ends up working on the isolated estate of recent widower Martin (Rea). They strike up an agreement: she will work for food on condition that neither exchanges any personal information about the other.

The deal works for a while, but inevitably resistances crumble and the pair form a strong and, for the audience, steadily intriguing bond. Their personal as well as cultural differences clash and then mesh, leading to a co-dependency allegorical to most 'normal' relationships.

Antoniak clearly has a good eye, and her performers give their all, but as the film's central premise – a Dutch girl wandering into the Galway countryside – is never explained (beyond the financial needs of a Dutch-Irish co-production), the result is perplexing rather than engaging. While Antoniak's restraint is admirable, from a dramaturgical perspective we are left to scratch our heads while indulging in shots of beautiful countryside.

The result is impressive but curiously forgettable, and feels like the idea for a short stretched out into a feature-length film (albeit one that cleaned up at the Locarno Film Festival). We are certainly pulled into the head of the main character, but as her puzzlement and anomie for the world increases so does ours for the film, so any chance of redemption (or explanation) is not just missing, it's redundant.

Antoniak is one to watch, but whether one could say the same for the film is not so much a question of quality but one of taste.
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6/10
A cerebral Ondine?
Miakmynov23 June 2010
Belying its' title, 'Nothing Personal' is clearly a very personal film. Set on the west coast of Ireland, this two-hander explores the decision to leave virtually everything behind and offers a study of loneliness and reconnection through a gradual re-building of trust. With strong performances from both leads, I was increasingly absorbed as their characters unfolded, and the film is at its' best in the gentle humour and the slowly developing relationship between them; there are some lovely touches and moments, like stopping the wind blowing through the grass.

Unfortunately this undoubted emotional engagement seems to have come at the expense of narrative coherence. Whilst I don't expect everything handed to me on a plate, it felt quite an uphill struggle trying to follow the Director's clues about what was actually happening. I couldn't quite work out if the chronology was chopped up or not, and I felt the main device of leaving history unspoken between the pair was unnecessarily allowed to overwhelm plot lucidity at times, leaving me with too many unanswered questions for it to be a consistently rewarding experience; I look forward to reading the future IMDb message board musings of more perceptive viewers. I suspect the film will be compared to Ondine – similar location and 'strong, mysterious, beautiful foreigner' theme –and whilst undoubtedly more cerebral and emotionally resonant, it's a shame that its' increasing tendency to veer into a somewhat perplexing swamp rather lets it down.

If you have a penchant for 'hands swirling round in seaweed' close-ups, then this is certainly the film for you – otherwise, despite its' spirit and intrigue, the level of confusion means that for me, it won't stay in the memory for too long.
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6/10
quiet destruction
SnoopyStyle3 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A woman (Lotte Verbeek) has suffered some sort of loss. She's playing with her ring. Strangers are grabbing her belongings left outside her apartment. She goes hitching into the Irish countryside. She stops at a farm where Martin (Stephen Rea) offers food for work. They collect seaweed from the coast to fertilize the land. She refuses to give him any personal information including her name. They find solace in each other's damaged lives.

These two damaged characters are played by compelling big-time actors. It's a quiet movie filmed by first-time Polish-Dutch director Urszula Antoniak. It's all about the quiet which sometimes generates powerful moments. Mostly, it's just quiet. It's an interesting debut.
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8/10
Powerful Indie Drama
larrys320 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This film directed by Urszula Antoniak is what I would call non-gimmicky non-formulaic independent film. It's basically a two person film with terrific laid back performances from Stephen Rea, a wonderful Irish actor, and Lotte Verbeek, a Dutch actress.

Verbeek is mysterious drifter who comes upon Rea's isolated home on the Irish coast. At first, she is hostile to any interactions with him. However, over time in slow and subtle ways they begin to bond. It all leads to what I thought was a touching and appropriate ending.

I found this to be a surprisingly quiet wonderful film. For those with no patience probably not the film for you.
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bitter beauty
Vincentiu31 December 2012
precise, minimalist, strange. almost a form of poem. maybe a visual haiku, story of a trip, a meeting and solitude. a circle. impressive images. memories from Bergman. and dust taste. a portrait. or only testimony. a search and its terminus point. a parable. or only fragments from a house and a garden. the mixing of algae remains for me the central image. a gesture like a prey. or only need to save essence of search. because, the actors , in this case, are shadows of places. and sign of subtle desire to be part of them. sure, after film end, a lot of hypothesis bloom. but it remains only the taste of honey and ash. and a white package. like last gift.
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8/10
An Ode To Solitude
phantlers15 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this alone, in a foreign cinema far from home and found it highly resonant. It is a love story, and one of some sort of healing of the senses.

There are some exquisitely observed scenes, the sensuousness of her running the seaweed through her hands (several times) and their connectedness with nature form a counterpoint to their individual alienation and personal sorrow, their unrevealed grief. That and the scene in which she demonstrates an extraordinary culinary talent reveal a refinement that he shows us from the outset with his solitary decorum.

The gradual acceptance of their feelings for one another is well constructed although like at least one other commentator I felt the use of some fractured chronology was ambiguous and unsatisfactorily edited.

There is the eventual, inevitable tragedy, punctuated with some (mostly wry) comedy along the way but some sense of uncertainty at the end. Whatever else it may be, it features two very moving performances that are deserving of any awards the film receives.
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8/10
..a very pleasant little surprise..
bjarias25 January 2016
With additional dialogue the entire complexion of the film would have changed. And as a matter of fact, from a couple of critic reviews, I had gone in thinking there was to be much less than there actually was. The natural sounds become much more noticeable and meaningful, and are a plus for enjoyment. Rea is one of today's great actors, and one of the few very recognizable names that when you see him on screen, he takes over his character and you then see less of 'him.' Verbeek was 27 at the time, having just graduated from theater-school a year earlier. She is remarkable and I'll seriously look forward to seeing her once again... same for the writer-director. It's a small, simple little little film, but you'll find yourself think about it long after viewing it... and it will never age.
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3/10
Mediocre copy of what it wants to be
GoldmundX15 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The Irish countryside, silence, solitude... The synopsis sounds promising, but the execution just doesn't feel authentic. This movie tries to do something, be something, that it cannot deliver. I don't buy it, I don't believe it. It's not necessary to know a lot about a character's background to feel for the character, to get interested in a character. The opposite is often true. But there needs to be something that you can work with, can relate to. Something that grips you, at the very least the character needs to make you care. I just found the girl annoying. Instead of being intrigued by her, I grew very quickly very tired with her act, which just seemed so immature. She just acted like a rebellious, capricious adolescent. That she may be of course, but that makes it hard (impossible really) to explore the deeper feelings the movie wants to explore through her character. And I couldn't detect much depth in 'the philosopher' as well. The 'pact' (don't ask, don't tell) they make is just an unimaginative cliché, that could work and has worked in some movies, but here it just seems like a cheap gimmick to try and make the characters seem more mysterious and interesting and their interactions more intriguing. I can see what the director was going for, but it just didn't work for me. And exploring themes like loneliness and love in a respectful, authentic, believable, gripping way, is not easy for sure. The story, characters, acting, setting, dialogues, music, everything must fall into place. The countryside was actually fairly well chosen, but the rest of the 'ingredients' just didn't cut it. I didn't get sucked in by the movie, just kept bumping into awkward little bumps in the story, character development and the acting was mediocre. There're some Asian (especially Japanese and Korean) directors, who really understand the art of portraying loneliness and love, and for whom's interested I would suggest looking into the work of Korean director Kim Ki-Duk or for example watch 'Toni Takitani' (after a story by Haruki Murakami). The cover scene from Nothing Personal, naked girl hugging the dead loved one wrapped in a sheet, is even 'borrowed' from an Asian movie (I cannot quite remember the name though). Nothing Personal just didn't feel right, it just felt pretentious. Nothing personal though.
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8/10
So many unanswered questions with only one possible answer.
marekbouchard7 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
After watching this film for the first time, I was intrigued. I felt the need to watch it a second time, parsing every minute detail to try to figure out what the hell was going on. So many questions; but I think I figured it out. Why did You go into Martin's house (before even meeting him) and rearrange his coffee mugs, then roll around in his bed naked? What happened in Amsterdam? Who was the woman in the house? Why in the world would Martin want to die after having this gorgeous girl move in with him?

Most importantly, who is You? You is a witch.

The events of the movie can only fully be explained by witchcraft. The weird coffee mug and bedsheets behavior was probably a hex of some sort. In Amsterdam, she probably killed her former husband before taking off to the next sucker (Martin.) I don't know who the women was, but it doesn't matter. Martin killed himself because he was under a spell and the vile temptress he invited into his home was actually slowly killing him for his house and his money.

Bummer.

Seriously, don't judge this interpretation till you've watched it again with this in mind. It's the only way I've found to make the movie make sense.
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9/10
what happens when two loners cohabit?
eumenades8 May 2015
A unique storyline that captures the viewer's attention, wondering what these two will make of each other where primarily neither want to relate intimately with anyone else. A very interesting film in terms of every unspoken gesture, facial expression and events-packed silence. Part of the fascination is the viewer constantly wondering, "What will happen between them next?"

And it is this tension that makes for a total attention. Can they love? Will they connect? Who will open up first? Why were they so alienated in the first place?

Yes, a very existentialist piece reminiscent of Bergman movies, perhaps; certainly treating similar themes. By the end of this film, I was half in love with 'You', the female protagonist. Yup, it really got to me. Maybe you too.
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7/10
Too detached ...
sinncross28 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
After finding herself alone and detached from society, an unnamed woman (Lotte Verbeek), backpacks through Ireland seemingly wanting to lead a solitary existence. With no more than the clothes she has on her back and some utensils like a small tent, the woman discovers an isolated house belonging to Martin (Stephen Rea) who also appears to be living his life alone.

Nothing Personal tells an intriguing story of loneliness and this becomes quite apparent due to the less than normal use of dialogue, minimal use of accompanying music, controlled camera shots and the muted colour scheme which fills every scene. All of these traits slowly increase as the film continues, and from a visual and audio manner it is great to see the relationship between the woman and Martin develops. The narrative uses a linear flow but it becomes quite a shame that it is broken into noticeable chapters: each chapter begins with a black screen and a word, such as 'marriage'. Beyond hurting the flow of the film these wordings do not exactly portray the tangible events about to occur, but rather abstractly feel as if the director needed to guide the viewer into a particular point of thought in regards to the events about to take place. This guidance erodes at the loneliness theme of the narrative and inevitably makes it more difficult for the viewer to truly appreciate the resonance of story and the characters. An aspect which could have gotten a little extra information for story purposes is in regards to the history of both main characters. By the conclusion, the plot ultimately retains an element of uncertainty as it is difficult to truly gauge the strength of the conclusion on characters who the audience knows almost nothing about.

While neither Verbeek nor Rea provide strong acting performances both are adequate in depicting the different means by which people approach a feeling of isolation. Rea's character takes a more traditional approach to the experience whereas Verbeek seems somewhat off-the-wall. This is not a bad thing as this helps to differentiate the characters and make them more unique, but some of her actions can seem rather odd in an almost overly poetic manner.

Nothing Personal marks the full-length feature debut for Urszula Antoniak. Her control on scenes really does allow for some lovely landscape imagery, if muted by the colour scheme and harsh weather that surrounds the film, for the viewer to gaze up. It all works in enhancing the reclusiveness of the characters and the visual aids thus synch nicely with the thematic elements being explored. This naturalness is barred by some odd editing problems which occur infrequently.

The film contains no violence while language is strong but used rarely. One scene could constitute as sexual in nature but otherwise there is none to speak of, yet breast nudity does feature in two or three scenes.

There is an emotionally powerful story to be told within Nothing Personal and this is noted by a wonderful use of minimal music and colour variety, however it never really succeeds as expected. The narrative does a decent job on impressing the experience of loneliness onto the viewer but, it is unfortunate that Verbeek and Rea are unable to find the connection between their respective character and the narrative material, and the story can feel thin when the credits roll. Still, Nothing Personal is not a film which should be easily dismissed.
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5/10
A silent poem of abstract solitudes on film.
JohnRayPeterson5 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The title intrigued me and to enhance my experience, I chose not to read the story-line beforehand. I was familiar with actor Stephen Rea but given the varied roles he's played in the past, it was not a factor for deciding to watch it or pass. Let it be a surprise was my thought, one which usually, as mentioned, enhances the experience; it did.

I struggled to find meaning or understand what the movie was suppose to convey; it has minimal dialogue, no narration, thus I had to pay attention to every details for a glimpse of the idea. The location and beautiful scenery shots helped make it positive. All I came up with was a sense of something the actors and director projected by the simple flow of the story itself. What that sense was, I was not entirely sure or confident enough to write about it until after reading the full IMDb story-line and the reviews and critics from my usual sources. It was the reviews and in particular, the outline in Rotten Tomatoes that provided the solution to my equation.

I read excellent descriptions and observations which corresponded to that sense of something I referred to. That something was two souls coming to an arrangement whereby the two key characters could live free in their respective and distinctly different way. Living together but 'Nothing Personal' despite the natural instinctual need to connect with one another, which urge they kept in check to the bitter end. Tempted as I may be to use some of the wording and comments from other reviewers, I would not; I avoid some insightful perspectives from fellow authors for the same reason. There is not an abundance of them so take the time to read a few; it should be worth your while.

My conclusion is a comparison. Imagine going to your favourite art gallery or museum and spending time in the abstract sections, you can linger in front of a painting or sculpture that captures your attention. In some cases, you will purchase the piece if it is for sale and often you simply move on. Your reasons are simple; it calls to you or it does not sufficiently do so. This was the case for me and this movie; it did not sufficiently satisfy my taste. I commend those who voted high ratings as could only manage one that was I hope at least fair.
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6/10
Lovely but Perplexing
magovelit12 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Nothing Personal is a film I've been interested for sometime in seeing but held back for two reasons: firstly, my experience up to this point with the principle actors, Verbeek and Rhea, has been one-dimensional. I had only seen Rhea in Neil Jordan's (a man whose repeated films containing Rhea makes me think of an Irish Burton-Depp relationship) Interview with The Vampire which made me have no opinion at all in reference to his acting capabilities. On the other hand, Ms. Verbeek I had only seen as the beautiful and resourceful Giulia Farnese in Neil Jordan's The Borgia s. However, this film gave me confidence in the opinion that both Verbeek and Rhea are fine artists in their own right and can handle the emotions (sometimes strange and erratic)that Nothing Personal offers. The second reason was that I thought, after reading about the writer and director, this film might be a little TOO European for my liking. As it turned out, Nothing Personal was an oddly interesting debut of Antoniak's talent as a director--the sweeping views that the audience was graced with of the Irish countryside were breathtaking as was the quaint home of Rhea's character, Martin. Admittedly, there were aspects of this film that didn't quite read: the sparse dialogue worked in some instances but on a whole didn't quite help me figure out exactly where these two characters, who were on the surface quite interesting, where they came from. Unfourtunetley, there were long spaces of screen time where, in the midst of Verbeek's character packing up her tent or struggling up the hills of Ireland's coastal region, I almost fell asleep. In fact, it was because of this plot-less venturing that led me to give up on this movie the first time I watched it. However, some positive points to this film was that the acting was subtly beautiful: both Verbeek and Rhea had this wonderful and understated chemistry that made total sense with their character's relationship. And my favourite part of the whole movie was where both Verbeek and Rhea's characters forsake the isolated house of Martin's to go out for a drink at the local pub. Seeing Verbeek try to Irish step dance and finally socialize for the first time in the whole film was a heart warming experience. Another scene that I found breathtaking (yet another promising start for Antoniak) was Verbeek's character blowing the tall grass of the highlands into a frenzy with her own breath as a gift to Martin. It sounds kind of strange writing it down but when you see it, it's a lovely scene between Rhea and Verbeek's characters, another crack in their odd companionship void of personal intrusion. I can't very well explain the subtle beauty that Antoniak's film offers nor can I praise every aspect of Verbeek and Rhea's performance without keeping in mind that their are movie goers who haven't yet explored this underrated film and that I'd like to keep the mystery of this film untouched for the time being. It isn't a perfect film and it definitely isn't one of my top Earth Moving Films of My Life. But it is unique and worth taking a look at, if only to see the potential of this up coming filmmaker who, I hope, doesn't disappear into obscurity and instead graces cinema with a new story to share.
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7/10
Excellent story for awhile
natureders18 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This films exceptionally well done as it leaves out so much of what films today do not, music at every moment and constant dramas. Instead we get a fresh perspective on two people, one that wants to be a loner and escape and another that sorta/kinda doesn't want to but is a loner non-the-less.

Honestly his life didn't seem so terrible that he would end it, which is the final outcome of the film. However it's unclear if he off'd himself or it was a natural death, I would say natural in my opinion except for his letter to her which pretty much says it all. Of course the letter is all about giving her his place only for her to leave it! Irony! The only real issue I have with this film is, well OK more than one: 1. He doesn't sleep with her when she offers herself. Unbelievable since he clearly had been wanting to the entire film, and what man would not want too I mean dear lord.

2. He off's himself for no real reason (we are aware of) however based on the trend in the film of him slowly letting her move closer it makes no sense at all, none. I'm offended and annoyed they went the easy route instead of tying up all the loose ends in this movie. I mean seriously what normally would've happened is they begin to feel something romantic for each other, and we learn more about who they are, finally they end up together, perhaps cliché but still a brighter end than this film makes things out to be. Her alone anyway in that crummy apartment abandoning his stuff for god knows whom to pillage! Some would say a movie that makes you talk is great, this sure will do that for you let me tell ya. But I would have ended it on a happy note, why not? And he wasn't that OLD OK so it's not really crazy to expect they'd end up together. Alright bye!
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Based on the IRA this is a film that will divide opinions
markshugh22 January 2019
Nothing Personal, much like In the Name of the Father, begins with an IRA bomb blast destroying a pub. The time frame -- the middle '70s -- is the same. Only the location is different -- this is Belfast, not Guildford. However, where In the Name of the Father used Ireland's troubles as a backdrop for a compelling story about family and justice, Nothing Personal makes the religious strife its centerpiece. Explorations of violence -- its causes, its meaning, and its effects -- are difficult to present on film because they're so easy to get wrong. With Nothing Personal, Catholic director O'Sullivan, along with his Protestant screenwriter, Daniel Mornin, has ventured into that uncertain territory. Have they succeeded? Its up to you to decide.
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