After several years without contact, Martijn visits his sister Daantje, who just started to live on her own in Amsterdam. He tells her he is going to make a documentary from her life, and ...
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After several years without contact, Martijn visits his sister Daantje, who just started to live on her own in Amsterdam. He tells her he is going to make a documentary from her life, and enters her home live with a video camera. This creates tension between Daantje and her brother because he wants to recall something that happened between them in the past. To keep Martijn at a distance, Daantje starts a relationship with Ramón, but Martijn gets between them. He manages to talk to her so that she remembers the things that happened when they were kids. This helps him to overcome his obsession for his sister, and after playing over their history, he is finally able to see her without the video camera like he did during the course of the movie. Written by
Dennis Jansen <Dennis.Jansen@student.bosb.wau.nl>
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Jay Schneider. See more »
During the finishing credits, the film itself is suggested to be sold on a flea-market as "re-usable" videotape (the film is shot on video, supposedly the handy-cam of one of the main characters). See more »
LITTLE SISTER (Robert-Jan Westdijk - Netherlands 1995).
Hard to tell what makes "Zusje" work so well. The concept of the faux-documentary and the entirely subjective, mostly hand-held camera-work is both highly original and certainly something novel in the Netherlands at the time. Or is it the main role by Kim van Kooten, who is almost permanently on screen. Director Robert Jan Westdijk apparently auditioned over three hundred candidates for the main role, but none of them apparently had the right quality to express a certain kind of innocence when looking directly into the camera (which occurs a lot). After this endless search, Kim van Kooten - in her debut role - came up as first choice and she is a real find. She really is the kind of unpolished natural talent every first-time director dreams of.
Through the subjective camera we're soon part of a voyeuristic and rather uncomfortable journey when we join video-obsessed Martijn (Romijn Coonen with the voice of Hugo Metsers III) who - after a long absence - decides to pay a surprise visit to his younger sister Daantje (Kim van Kooten) on her 20th birthday and starts filming her almost constantly. She is a design student in Amsterdam and seems quite tolerant of her brother's continuous presence while he obsessively intrudes her daily goings-on. Daantje engages in a turbulent relationship with Ramon (Roeland Fernhout) whose initial tolerance of Martijn - now entering his life as well - soon makes place for irritation.
Through frequent flashbacks (grainy footage shot on super-8) we slowly learn some things about Daantje en Martijn's childhood. It becomes apparent that some uncomfortable unresolved issues still stand between them, but it remains unclear what their relationship was like when they were children. The very film we're watching is Martijn's documentary on his sister, but soon the tables are turned when all the footage he shot is stolen and Daantje starts taking some of her own measures to put Martijn in place.
Practically the whole cast and crew was under 30 during shooting and the largely unknown cast of newcomers greatly attributes to the raw and fresh feel of the film. The verité style and dialog of "Zusje" might suggest a lot of improvisation during filming, but Robert-Jan Westdijk and Jos Driessen meticulously worked on the script for years, in order to make the film as authentic as possible. Everything, to the most insignificant details, was carefully prepared.
In the Netherlands, the film was more a kind of cultural phenomenon than it was a huge hit in cinemas, but considering its micro-budget, the 140,000 sold tickets were quite OK. Despite this enthusiastic reception by the critics and public alike, it never really caught on in other countries. The subject matter was probably a little too edgy and uncomfortable for most audiences. Surely the breath of fresh air Dutch cinema needed.
Camera Obscura --- 9/10
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