Wednesday, October 10, 2007

De Jurk/The Dress (1996, Netherlands)

It must have something to do with the fact that soft drugs are legal in Holland that the country has such a number of surrealistic film makers. This film is definitely one of the more disturbing of its ilk, much more so than many other, much less depressing Dutch masterpieces of absurdity, such as director Alex van Warmerdam’s earlier film Noordlingen (1992) or Jos Stelling’s De Illussionist (1984).
De Jurk is about an unspectacular, ordinary house dress. Its existence, from the design of the material to its production to its end as the cremation dress of a bag lady, is a path of sadness and despair, of miseries and absurd situations gone astray. Within the first 15 minutes, the designer of the material is left by his girlfriend, the dress designer reveals himself as a pig fetishist and the manager of the production firm tries to kill his boss. Once bought, it brings nothing but misery to everyone who has anything to do with it. The first to wear it dies. The dress's subsequent owner, Johanna, a housemaid with a colorless, loveless life, barely survives two rape attempts. The next owner, a sheltered young girl living an equally morose life at home with a cold-hearted bitch mother, fairs little better. The tragic path of the dress seems circular, for its influence often befalls the same people as they slowly slide further down the path of tristesse. The manager's wife, now homeless, freezes to death while wearing it. Her husband, an equally lost soul, is reduced to having to pay for the simplest form of affection. The train conductor (played by the director himself), with his sexual fixation for the dress and anyone who wears it, likewise has his life destroyed by the last actions the mere image of the dress inspires him to commit.
De Jurk is a bizarre, cruelly funny film heavily tinged with an underlying sense of depression, featuring a world in which people have little understanding of and much less control over the destructive, alienating forces that influence their situations. Desire is felt by all but seldom satisfied, and when so, only in a debased form. Relationships are abused or simply stagnate in poisonous inertia, concern and compassion are drowned by an overall sense of rot and perversion. Hard to believe that such a distressing film can also be so funny.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...