Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday at EUFF - Day 5

Monday, November 8, 2010

Note: Times have been revised to reflect the EU’s current thinking, but based on past experience, you might be wise to give each time after the first film of the evening an additional 10 or 20 minutes earlier starting time.



Title/Original Title/Country/Category/Director/Length/Festival Synopsis/My Comments


6:00 PM

Storm Bound (2007)


Original Title: De Scheepsjongens Van Bontekoe

Country: Netherlands

Category: Family fun

Director: Steven de Jong

Principal Cast: Pim Wessels, Martijn Hendrickx, Billy Zomerdijk, Reena Giasi, Peter Tuinman, Thomas Acda  Bart Slegers, Cees Geel Mads Wittermans, Bas Keijzer,Chris Zegers ,Jack Wouterse ,Sanneke Bos.

Awards: 2007 – Netherlands Film Festival; Golden Film Award

Length: 135 Min


14 year old Hajo has always dreamed of life on the high seas. The fact that his father, a respected sailor, was killed on a ship does nothing to lessen his desire to leave land behind and seek adventure overseas. So when Captain Bontekoe shows up in town, recruiting for his next exciting voyage to Java, Hajo knows he has no time to lose. His mother tries her best to talk him out of it, but even she can see the sea is in her son's blood, in the same way as it was in her husband's. What follows, as Hajo climbs on board Bontekoe's ship along with faithful friends, Padde and Rolf, is a high octane hurricane of thrills and adventure.


Thomat: I really enjoyed this old-fashioned teen adventure tale of shipboard life for three boys in the golden age of Dutch sailing. Apparently a story that everyone in Holland knows and loves, and it’s not hard to see why. Good for family viewing.

De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe (English translation: "The Ship-boys of Bontekoe") is a 2007 Dutch family film, directed by Steven de Jong. The film received a Golden Film for 100,000 visitors. Based on the book De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe.


An entertaining adventure of three friends in the Age of Sail


IMDb viewer, Arconada: "De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe" ("The ship-boys of Bontekoe") is an entertaining adventure of three boys who travel to the East-Indies and back in the 17th century. The movie takes you to Batavia with all kinds of adventures on the way, and it shows that you can achieve anything if you really want to. The main characters Hajo, Padde, and Rolf also show that friendship makes you stronger. The journey of Bontekoe really did happen, but the story of the boys is fiction. The movie is based on a Dutch youth-adult novel by Johan Fabricius, a popular book ever since it was first published in 1924. Although everyone in Holland knows the plot of the story, the movie is still very entertaining because of the acting by the main characters. Especially Billy Zomerdijk plays an admirably clumsy Padde, who did not really want to go to sea. The film crew was able to use the replica of the Batavia, a ship of the same period, and together with all kinds of anecdotal incidents, the feeling of sea travel in those days is convincingly visualized. A must see for everyone who is fond of the Age of Sail.


8:25 PM

Venice (2010)


Original Title: Wenecja

Country: Poland

Category: Fantasy

Director: Jan Jakub Kolski

Principal Cast: Marcin Walewski, Grażyna Błęcka-Kolska, Magdalena Cielecka, Julia Kijowska, Agnieszka Grochowska, Teresa Budzisz - Krzyżanowska, Michał Kwieciński.

Awards: 2010 – 34th Montreal World Film Festival; Special Jury Prize for Best Artistic Contribution

Length: 110 mins


Eleven-year-old Marek loves Venice. He knows the names of all the squares and streets of Venice by heart, but he has never actually seen his beloved city in person, but this is about to change. This summer his dream will come true; he will finally visit Venice. This summer, however, happens to be the summer of 1939. War with Germany looms and Marek’s father enters the army. Instead of St. Mark’s Square, Marek ends up with his mother in a large villa belonging to Aunt Veronica. Down in the flooded cellar of the mansion, Marek still has dreams. If he can’t go to Venice, Venice will come to him...

Denver Film Festival, Juliet Sherwood: When the outbreak of war in Poland in 1939 crushes 11-year-old Marek’s dream of a summer trip to Venice, he tries to escape the frightening reality into which he’s suddenly been thrown by hiding in his aunt’s basement—until it’s flooded by a violent storm. Devising a plan to distract her nephew from the horrors outside, she helps him undertake his journey after all as they construct a replica of Venice, its islands rising out of the water. Together they enter into a subterranean dream world—which begins to seem more real than the one aboveground.

Director Jan Jakub Kolski shows his mastery of magic realism with Venice, which is based on a novel by the prolific octogenarian writer Wlodzimierz Odojewski, who has said that his aim in writing is to preserve the memory of a bygone world: “I have summoned up a past full of human emotions, human suffering, fear, love and hatred—but a past rooted in historical fact.” Seeking likewise to balance the mythical with the authentic, Kolski did a national talent search to cast Marek, finally settling on young veteran television actor Marcin Walewski. But he didn’t have to go far to find the actress who would portray Marek’s aunt: Grazyna Blecka-Kolska is Kolski’s wife.



More on:


Storm Bound / The Ship-boys of Bontekoe  / De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe (2007)

Exciting preview here.


Big mistake noted on IMDb: The ship Nieuw-Hoorn shows a steering wheel. Dutch ships in this age used a tiller.


Picky, picky. Synopsis: In the Dutch-language, family-oriented adventure De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe, three young boys in the 17th century embark on a seafaring journey to Batavia (now Jakarta), a port on the northwest coast of Java. En route, however, their plans take a most unanticipated twist when the boat is shipwrecked and leaves the youngsters stranded on a South Seas island.


Maxon: As of today the 17th century VOC (United East Indian Campaign) period is coming alive again with the national release of De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe, a sailor's epic after the well-known book of Johan Fabricius and directed by Steven de Jong. Within a period of just four months the seven-member team of the young Dutch visual effects studio PLANET X FX managed to create a complete 3D replica of the legendary ship, the Nieuw Hoorn, and have it weather incredible storms on the Indian Ocean.


Since photorealism was required, the entire ship was created in 3D with the aid of the original construction maps of the Batavia (including the complicated rope work). The 3D environment of a stormy, high-rising sea was also developed in-house.


In addition to the development and matching of the ship, the sea, and storms in several scenes, PLANET X FX also contributed to the convincing 17th-century settings of the movie with matte paintings, several (wire) removals, day-for-night shots, and the addition of many other vfx elements.



Venice (2010) / Wenecja (2010)

Poland, Drama – 1 hr 50 mins


Variety, Dennis Harvey: Handsome but somewhat dramatically inert, Jan Jakub Kolski's "Venice" follows an upper-class Polish family's fortunes as they try to ride out the worst of effects of WWII by repairing to a country estate. Landscapes and lyrical lensing make more of an impression than the director’s diffuse script (based on two stories by Nobel-nominated local literary celeb Wlodzimierz Odojewski), which fails to develop much narrative sweep or emotional impact. Winner of Montreal's "Best Artistic Contribution" nod -- no doubt for its lush visual charms -- the film is unlikely to prove a prestige export item, with offshore prospects skewing toward DVD.


Eleven-year-old Marek (Marcin Walewski) wants nothing more than to visit fabled Venice, which everyone else in his family has already done. Instead he's deposited in 1939 at the family's crumbling rural manse already occupied by a grandmother and two aunts and whatever other relatives are fleeing eventual Warsaw air raids. Among the clan's four adult sisters, permanent residents Veronika (Kolski's spouse Grazyna Blecka-Kolska) and Barbara (Agnieszka Grochowska) are industrious and content youthful spinsters; by contrast, Marek's mother Joanna (Magdalena Cielecka) and youngest sib Lilian (Dana Batulkowa) are flighty socialites reluctant to let children or other dull obligations weigh them down.


As the war years fitfully pass -- our protagonist's officer father first on the front lines, then in a Soviet POW camp -- isolated boredom and typical growing pains are goosed by the occasional notable event. Basement flooding allows Marek to create his own miniature Venice of "canals" and makeshift "bridges," lending the film a recurring fanciful touch. The protagonist witnesses the strafing of a Polish regiment; his elder brother Victor (Filip Piotrowicz) disappears for days on end to help the local resistance; Nazis passing through shoot a Jewish child simply because they can; dad (Mariusz Bonaszewski) finally shows up, alive but badly traumatized.


Though it all, the clan's shabby-genteel lifestyle remains intact, their deprivations modest compared with what most of the country is doubtless going through.


There are poetical aesthetics aplenty here -- the film's palate is awash in Artur Reinhart's delicate photography, the river-like flow of Witold Chominski's editing, and numerous Chopin piano excerpts.


But despite the narrative's six-year time span and a few vivid sequences, the ably played characters never deepen enough to move us. Sometimes their return to the estate is heralded when we hadn't noticed they'd left. The ironic, final tragedy is diminished by fact that an older actor is practically unrecognizable as the same character played earlier by a younger one.


The more serious historical themes here, while just glancingly treated, nonetheless tend to undercut Kolski's trademark magical realism. Result is a pretty patchwork that is first-rate in all tech/design departments yet ultimately seems too unfocused and flyweight to do justice to the period portrayed.


Film Festivals, James McNally:


Wenecja (Venice) (Director: Jan Jakub Kolski): Based on either a novel or a series of short stories by Włodzimierz Odojewski (I can’t seem to find out which), Wenecja’s reach exceeds its grasp in the end, but it’s a feast for the senses non­ethe­less. It begins with a tan­tal­izing syn­opsis: 11-year-old Marek is the child of aris­to­cratic par­ents. Although everyone else in his family has seen Venice, he has yet to have the exper­i­ence, and it’s become a bit of an obses­sion for him. Unfortunately, the out­break of war in 1939 dashes his plans, for Venice and a whole lot more. He is sent to stay with his aunt at the family’s old manor house in the country, where a motley col­lec­tion of female cousins and other aunts has assembled, along with his grand­mother. His father and older brother have gone off to fight, while his spoiled mother claims to have been called up by the White Cross, a relief organ­iz­a­tion, but has instead run off with one of her lovers. When the manor house’s base­ment is flooded one night during a storm, Marek and his aunts decide to recreate the canals of Venice. It’s a powerful piece of ima­gin­a­tion and a defense mech­anism against the encroaching viol­ence of the German invasion.


But as the film con­tinues to add poten­tially inter­esting char­ac­ters, it becomes evident that it’s not quite the coming-of-age story that we expected. Although there are bits of romance with Marek and his female cousins and the young maid, he brushes them off, retreating instead to the base­ment where he repeats “I don’t want to be here” like an incantation. The film then fol­lows some of the other char­ac­ters, including Marek’s mother and her sis­ters, each of whom has a poten­tially inter­esting back-story. There is also the local Jewish family, whom the film is at great pains to point out are treated very well by the aris­to­crats. Marek’s brother Victor turns up after a while, but his char­acter isn’t really explored, even when Marek fol­lows him one day on one of his mys­ter­ious excursions.

Wenecja seems to want us to mourn the passing away of the Polish aris­to­cratic class even as their suf­fering seems more like incon­veni­ence. Anyone familiar with European his­tory will know that most Poles were suf­fering far more than this family, and that thought clouds any good­will we may develop toward this group of refined and attractive people. It doesn’t help that the cine­ma­to­graphy is uni­formly gor­geous, making even the one attempt at grit (a German fighter plane strafing a column of Polish troops) an exer­cise in high style instead.


When the family’s hideout is finally dis­covered by the Germans, it’s their good for­tune that the sol­diers are part of a pro­pa­ganda unit, who film their mock-Venetian car­nival and then go away. While there’s a sense of fore­boding after­ward, the film ends abruptly by skip­ping ahead to the end of the war, and showing us not Marek but another char­acter. It’s a con­clu­sion that’s both con­fusing and unsatisfying.


I got the sense that Kolski’s film could have gone on in sev­eral dir­ec­tions. There were more than enough inter­esting char­ac­ters and plot­lines intro­duced. Instead, the film leaves us hanging, wishing for more. Though many of the images in Wenecja are unfor­get­table, in the end it is only a beau­tiful fantasy, cov­ering over the ugly reality of what was going on else­where in Poland. Thus it fails to have the sort of emo­tional impact that it should, which is a real pity.
















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