Eddy Terstall :: The Netherlands :: 2004 :: 1h42

Through an awkward accident, Camiel (Marcel Hensema) meets Simon (Cees Geel). Camiel is an intelligent, shy, insecure, gay student studying to become a dentist. Simon is close to his opposite: a true Amsterdam mythical hero – down-to-earth, liberal, dry humoured seducer (“Couldn’t you just instantly turn into a naked chick?”) who owns two cafés and lives in the Dutch paradox – he’s in the semi-legal business of running a hash home delivery service. Both are true products of Dutch society, as it is dreamed to be, with their multilingual, easy, matter-of-fact approach to life. But the film is mostly about Simon. Well, about Camiel looking Simon, fascinated.

So what is it about Simon that so fascinates Camiel? To a certain extent, Camiel is an outsider, he is just someone who walks the streets. He is not extraordinary in any sense. Neither his love life, nor his profession can help him up, nor does he play an instrument or have any hidden talent. When he meets Simon, it seems as if Simon has his whole life organised around himself, to be able to live his life fully. He is surrounded by his oddball friends and has a loving family (in Thailand!). And that with a forgiving smile which allows him to boyishly do as he pleases.

The second half of the movie is darker than the first, when the weight on the looming tragedy starts to be felt (Simon’s approaching death). The second half of the film is more emotional, building on the characters and relationships of the first half. Notice the remarkable difference in the treatment of the subject with Les Invasions Barbares, of death, friendship, love, sex and society. Perhaps the last is most remarkable, because somewhere Simon is the society. There is no clash with an outer world which is different to him – because the difference between the individuals is what makes up the society in which he lives. Similarly there is no generational gap either, Simon’s children will make something out of their lives as he did with his, nothing fundamental has changed. It is Western society at its (brief?) peak.

If there is any weakness in the film, then it would have to be Simon’s interest in Camiel, the reasons of which could have been more explicit (perhaps his stability, or his intelligence?). None the less, the audience takes on the role of Camiel, and is taken along into Simon’s world. A world which is a rare glimpse into the liberal post-modern society which is (was?) The Netherlands. Camiel will not be the only one leaving impressed.


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