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He Was Like A Dream…Too Good To Be True
Have you ever wished Wes Anderson's movies were about a million times more caustic?
Facts of the Case
You could call the van End family dysfunctional, sure, but they seem like any other Dutch family. The father, Evert (Ton Kas, Plan C), works a thankless job at a sausage factory. The mother, Etty (Jacquelin Blom, Black Book), is in a constant battle to get her pothead son Manuel to grow up. Oldest child Erwin has a good job and is getting ready to get married. Then there's Eva (newcomer Vivian Dierickx), the youngest—she'd rather watch documentaries on whales or listen to her favorite panflutists than interact with other people.
Enter Veit (Rafael Gareisen, The Book Thief) , a German exchange student who stays with the van Ends for two weeks. Veit is a near-perfect human being, so much so that the van Ends are made very much aware of their shortcomings. The result isn't pretty.
Comparing first-time director Michiel ten Horn's The Deflowering of Eva van End to the work of Wes Anderson or Todd Solondz is almost unavoidable. Ten Horn has explicitly stated the influence these two American directors have had on him, and it's there on the screen: The Deflowering of Eva van End is a biting look at the insecurities of a middle-class family that looks and feels like an Anderson movie. Thankfully, it's not wholly derivative; sadly, its approach is squirm-worthy enough to potentially alienate a lot of viewers.
Veit is a god-like character—he wears all white, is unfailingly polite, and spends his time donating money to orphans in Africa and learning to improve the world around him. The van End family have their share of problems, as the film shows, and Veit's tenure in their home serves as a catalyst for their transformation. For instance, after witnessing an angelic Veit practicing meditation, Etty looks to Eastern techniques to relieve her constant state of anxiety. Whether the family changes for better or worse is debatable (especially the changes that happen to Eva), and ten Horn gives the movie room enough to at least put more than one interpretation out there.
What's frustrating about The Deflowering of Eva van End, is that while ten Horn isn't overly cruel to his characters, they still never feel like real people. Eva in particular comes off like a collection of quirky Internet memes passing as a human being. The cast plays their parts well enough that this disconnect isn't always evident, but it's still there.
But maybe that's good? A couple of the plot twists might not have been as palatable if the characters were believable. The humor is pitch black in spots, and while the movie is genuinely funny, some scenes are just amazingly uncomfortable to sit through. Of course, your mileage may vary on this kind of thing. (And a mild warning: if you get upset over violence to small animals, you might want to avoid this movie.)
Still, The Deflowering of Eva van End is impressive in many ways. Ten Horn is skilled behind the camera, and his previous work as an animator manifests in how many of the scenes look like elaborate panels of an oddball comic strip or storyboard (and, when combined with this film's twee soundtrack, gives an overt nod to Anderson's work). It's at times a funny and humane film, but one tempered by a current of bitterness that's a little off-putting.
Film Movement's release of The Deflowering of Eva van End is pretty standard in the audio and visual department: a 1.77:1 non-anamorphic widescreen presentation and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround Dutch track do what they have to do. The extras: two short films by ten Horn (Basta, 13 minutes; Arie, 10 minutes) and a short, totally insane interview with the director.
The Deflowering of Eva van End is a well-made and affecting look at a family altered by their encounter with perfection. But by treating its characters as collections of traits instead of people, it loses something in the process, especially when the tone gets pitch black.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Film Movement
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