Alex van Warmerdam :: The Netherlands :: 2006 :: 1h37

Edgar (Alex van Warmerdam) is an ageing waiter with a life as empty as the spacious highway restaurant in which he works. His mistress sits at a table hoping to get some attention from him in a last desperate attempt to rescue their sinking relationship. Some guests take advantage Edgar’s serving position to humiliate him in a spectacle of absurdity. Edgar is at the bottom, and sees only one way out – to complain to the writer of the story to get better lines or at least a shimmer of happiness in his life.

This is a peculiar piece of film. A character complaining to the writer about the misery in his life is one thing, but the side characters come along as well, and the writer’s girlfriend who interferes with their fate as well… Nothing good can come out of this. Edgar not only lives his misery but realises that the creator of his fate is pushing him through the absurdity on purpose. When Edgar complains about his submissive suffering, all the writer can do to justify himself is telling Edgar that he must suffer. When Edgar protests, the writer retorts that he knows what he has in store for Edgar, as if there is some higher purpose for Edgar’s suffering. But that is bluff. The writer does not know where he is going with his story and merely sends Edgar off on a chase from misery to surreal.

The pace of the movie is upbeat is the first half, but when we get a key scene in the thriller aspect of it, the acquisition of a weapon, the movie grinds down to a halt! Edgar walks into a bashed-up curiosities cabinet, asks for the weapon, to which the owner, an old man dressed up as a woman, proceeds to get it down and wrap it up with a painfully slow imprecision. The audience can nail-bitingly complain all they like, but they will have to wait till he is finished for Edgar to get out of there to solve his problems in the last leg of the story. When you submit to the will of the director of the film you too have to sit through the lot, just like Edgar and the other characters.

As the movie does not really go anywhere, as far as the story is concerned, it is tempting to dismiss the entire film, despite its originality. We see the writer, although he is just a character in the film, and can not help but curse his incompetence at creating an incoherent, illogical story. But at the same time, it is that same incompetent writer which put the brilliant dry humoured dialogues into the script which had the audience laughing out loud. Still clearly one of the most original directors in European cinema today, do not miss out on him, but if you have not seen any of his work yet, start with Little Tony or The Northerners, leaving this one for later.


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