Saturday, February 24, 2018

Antonia's Line

Written and directed by Marleen Gorris, Antonia’s Line is the story of an independent-minded woman who returns to her home village where her arrival would create small changes for the village throughout the course of half a century and through the generations of people around her. The film is a look into the life of a village following the aftermath of World War II where a woman and her daughter would play a key role into the evolution of a small village and the people living at the village. Starring Willeke van Ammelrooy, Els Dottermans, Jan Decleir, Marina de Graaf, and Mils Seghers. Antonia’s Line is a ravishing and extraordinarily rich film from Marleen Gorris.

The film follows the life of a woman who returns to her birth village in the aftermath of World War II with her adult daughter as they would settle and make a life there where they would make little changes for the next half-a-century. It’s a film that play into the lives of various people in this small Dutch village who would become part of this thriving community of farmers and ordinary people who would live a life of peace and harmony despite some obstacles along the way. Marleen Gorris’ screenplay is largely told from the perspective of a narrator (Lineke Rijxman) where it begins on the final day of the titular character (Willeke van Ammelrooy) who is awaiting for her death with her loved ones including her daughter Danielle (Els Dottermans), her granddaughter Therese (Veerle van Overloop), and great-granddaughter Sarah (Thyrza Ravesteijn). Though Gorris never reveals certain events in story and when it takes place, it just adds to the development of the characters and their surrounding including those who started off as people opposed to Antonia’s arrival only to accept her later on.

Throughout the course of the story, Antonia and Danielle would each face their own obstacles with the latter seeing things come to life in a humorous way as she is new to the home of her mother while wanting to become an artist. Both Antonia and Danielle would get suitors in their own way with the former having a relationship with a kind farmer in Bas (Jan Decleir) while Danielle would have a child from a man she met through an acquaintance and later fall for Therese’s tutor Lara (Elsie de Brauw) whom she would have a lesbian relationship with. Another person Antonia and her family would be close to is an old friend named Crooked Fingers (Mil Seghers) who is this reclusive intellectual that reads a lot of books but often display a lot of cynical views which would intrigue Therese as a child and as an adult as she would become this child prodigy in math and music. Therese would also endure moments that nearly shook her to the core as it relates to a man named Pitte (Filip Peeters) who was the son of a rival farmer that abuses women including his mentally-handicapped sister DeeDee (Marina de Graaf) where he returns fifteen years after his exile from town to claim his ownership of the family farm.

Gorris’ direction is simplistic in its visuals where it doesn’t really go for a lot of stylistic elements with the exception of a few bits of fantasy that Danielle would see. Shot mainly in rural locations in Belgium, the film does play into this simple world of small villages and farm countries where everyone kind of knows each other. Gorris would use some wide shots to establish the vastness of the locations but also in the way she would view certain parts of the locations and how the characters fit in towards a certain location. There is also a repeated wide shot of a dinner that Antonia would have as it’s filled with family, friends, and other locals that eventually gets bigger with each passing year as it play into the closeness of the community. Even in a scene during the second act where Pitte had returned and has managed to anger Antonia in a way that is unlike anything where it’s followed by young local men who learned what he did and give Pitte exactly what he needed.

Gorris’ direction doesn’t have a lot of close-ups as it’s often centered on more than one character as she uses a lot of medium shots in the film. Notably in a montage where various characters in the film are making love to express their sense of joy. It’s among these moments that play into the closeness of the community where even the church becomes less oppressive through forms of playful blackmail and everyone becomes less judgmental. The film’s third act would change in tone though Gorris would create some beautiful compositions to play into the fact that times change and people would go away including elements of tragedy but it adds to the way life is which Antonia would tell to her great-granddaughter. Even as the film opens and ends with Antonia’s death as it all play into the circle of life with those who had been with her being there as she embarks on another adventure. Overall, Gorris crafts an enchanting and rapturous film about a woman’s return to her hometown and creating a sense of change and community during the course of half a century.

Cinematographer Willy Stassen does excellent work with the cinematography as it play into some of the natural elements of the exterior locations in the fields and small towns with some low-key lighting for a few scenes at night including the local pub. Editors Wim Louwrier and Michiel Reichwein do brilliant work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some stylish montage sequences and some playful jump-cuts. Production designer Harry Ammerlaan does amazing work with the look of the farm and other buildings in the village including Crooked Hands’ home filled with books, the church, and the local pub. Costume designer Jany Temime does fantastic work with the costumes as it help play into ordinary yet colorful look of the clothes and how they would evolve through each passing year and decade.

Makeup designer Jan Sewell does incredible work with the makeup in the way the characters look as they age while not needing to do too much in terms of conventions in the way characters age. The sound work of Dirk Bombey is superb as it play into the natural atmosphere of the locations as well as some of the things heard in the places the characters go to. The film’s music by Ilona Sekacz is wonderful for its low-key orchestral score that play into the dramatic elements of the film as well as providing various music pieces ranging from classical to pop to play into the period of the times.

The casting by Job Gosschalk and Hans Kemna is great as it feature some notable small roles from Catherine ten Bruggencate as the Mad Madonna who howls at night, Paul Kooj as her Protestant neighbor living under her, Flip Filz as the curate who forgoes his vow of chastity, Wimie Welhelm as Letta as a woman Antonia and Danielle meet in finding a man to have sex with Danielle as she later marries the curate, Leo Hogenboom as the village priest, Jacob Beks as the rival farmer Daan, Truus te Selle as his wife, Michael Pas as his youngest son Janne who wants to control the farm despite Pitte’s return, Jan Steen as the mentally-challenged Loony Lips, Marina de Graaf as Pitte’s mentally-challenged sister Deedee who would marry Loony, Reinout Bussemaker as Therese’s longtime childhood friend/husband Simon, Esther Vriesendorp and Carolien Spoor as the younger versions of Therese, Fran Waller Zeper as the Russian pub owner Olga, and Dora van der Groen as Antonia’s mother who appears briefly in the film on her deathbed.

Filip Peters is terrific as the abusive and bullish Pitte who is cruel to his sister Deedee where he would be gone from town for 15 years only to return to claim his inheritance where he later commits an unforgivable and unspeakable act that makes him a pariah among its locals. Thyrza Ravesteijn is fantastic as Sarah as Therese’s daughter who would inherit her mother’s intelligence but also a sense of curiosity about the world as she becomes close to her great-grandmother. Elsie de Brauw is wonderful as Lara as Therese’s tutor who would fall for Danielle as they would have a relationship of their own that manages to not stir any kind of trouble among the locals. Jan Decleir is superb as Bas as a farmer who falls for Antonia as he would be her companion as well as be someone who enjoys her sense of independence. Mil Seghers is excellent as Crooked Fingers as a reclusive philosopher as a man who would be Therese’s mentor knowing how gifted she is while dealing with the many things about the world.

Veerle van Overloop is brilliant as Therese as a woman who possesses great intelligence as well as the need to do so much yet has a hard time finding an intellectual equal as well as cope with its drawbacks in her attempt to connect with others. Els Dotterman is amazing as Danielle as Therese’s mother and Antonia’s daughter who aspires to be an artist but also wants to be a mother where she deals with her own sense of individuality while wanting to be an integral part of the community her mother helped built. Finally, there’s Willeke van Ammelrooy in a phenomenal performance as Antonia as a woman who returns to her home village where she would revive her family home as well as create something new that would thrive as she would also guide the generation of women in her life as well as many others as it’s a graceful and radiant performance from van Ammelrooy.

Antonia’s Line is a magnificent film from Marleen Gorris. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, and a compelling story about community where everyone lives freely and without judgment. It’s a film that isn’t just a riveting feminist film but also a film that shows what a woman could do to make small changes that would later become something bigger for everyone else. In the end, Antonia’s Line is an outstanding film from Marleen Gorris.

Marleen Gorris Films: (A Question of Silence) – (The Spirit of Grass) – (Broken Mirrors) – (The Last Island) - (Mrs. Dalloway) – (The Luzhin Defence) – (Carolina (2003 film)) – (Within the Whirlwind)

© thevoid99 2018


Anonymous said...

I had never heard of this movie until reading this review. I found what you said about it to be riveting reading.

thevoid99 said...

@vinnieh-Same here until I found out about it on Turner Classic Movies and realized that it's kind of a big deal so I decided to check it out and it's a huge surprise. If it ever comes on TV or be available anywhere, see it.