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"Zo authentiek dat het nauwelijks te geloven is dat er acteurs voor de camera staan" - NRC

ZUSJE

fragment

regie Robert Jan Westdijk, scenario Robert Jan Westdijk & Jos Driessen

met Kim van Kooten, Roeland Fernhout en Ganna Veenhuijzen

 

 

 

 

Speelfilm, 80 minuten

Gouden Kalf beste speelfilm 1995

Rembrandt beste speelfilm 1996

Silver Alexander Tessalonika

Golden Tulip Istanbul International Filmfestival

Publieks- en juryprijs op het Torino Festival of Young Cinema

Verkocht aan 22 landen.

 

Zusje
 

REVIEWS
This fresh and often funny debut of Robert Jan Westdijk is an absolute must.
--Time Out

So authentic it's hard to believe there are actors in front of the camera.
--NRC Handelsblad

Highly intriguing in its originality of concept and its style .--Corriere Della Sera

Consistently intriguing! --The Irish Times

Incest, voyeurism and videotape are the compelling ingredients of "Little Sister," a micro-budget, independent Dutch feature shot entirely with subjective camera. While the device has been around some time (since 1947 at least, when Robert Montgomery filmed "Lady in the Lake" through Philip Marlowe's eyes), the material is kept from becoming merely an exercise in technique by the intriguing power shifts negotiated between the title
character and her unhealthily obsessed brother.
Winner of three Dutch film festival awards including best film in Utrecht this fall, and a jury prize winner at the Turin and Thessaloniki fests, this family affair marks an attention-getting bow for first-time director Robert Jan Westdijk. Further fest-circuit exposure may lead to limited theatrical and TV sales.
For most of the film, the sister-fixated protagonist, Martin (Hugo Mesters III) is represented by his video camera. Constantly filming, he dances frenetically around the object of his affections, Daantje (Kim van Kooten), after bullying his way back into her life following a long absence. Martin is seen only when the camera falls into other hands or left stationery.
The film's tone is almost playful at first, with Daantje's attitude toward her brother and his camera bouncing between indulgence and irritation. But a vaguely menacing tension creeps in as the hint of sexual frisson between them darkens to reveal a shared secret that Daantje would prefer to keep locked away. An old Super-8 film replays a scene from many years earlier, when their parents came to Daantje's room on the morning of her birthday and found brother and sister frolicking naked in bed.
Daantje attempts to keep the unpredictable Martin at arm's length, pursuing a relationship with Ramon (Roeland Fernhout), whose initial amusement and tolerance of her ever-present sibling soon wear thin. With psychological manipulation and some deceptive editing of incriminating videotape, Martin alienates Ramon and then Daantje's friend Ingeborg (Ganna Veenhuysen). But when his sister wises up to his games, she takes control of the camera and turns the tables on him, ultimately revealing the true nature of their childhood tryst.
The edgy scenario is well sustained by Westdijk and Joe Driessen's often humorous script and by the appealing quartet of young actors, almost all of whom are making their first appearances in a feature film. Van Kooten is especially good, playing directly to the camera during most of the action and effortlessly shifting between teasing, traumatized and empowered states. Fernhout supplies a goofy charm that serves his character well.
Energetically shot on Betacam SP and transferred to 35mm, the film makes fundamental assets of its manic camerawork and brisk editing. Visual quality of the blowup is excellent. -- David Rooney, Variety, December 4-12, 1995

 

Low-budget gem. Sharply written, original


4 February 2007 | by Camera Obscura (The Dutch Mountains)
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