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VILLAGE ON THE RIVER

Netherlands, 1960 (MIFF 1961, Programme 2)

Director: Fons Rademakers

The film is set in a small Dutch village at the begining of this century. The central figure of this macabre and Rabelaisian story is the doctor who, when off duty, prefers, the friendship of the local boatman and poacher (who narrates the film) to that of the pompous and inane burgomaster and the other local notabilities. We learn of the doctor's devotion to his patients, his feuds with rhe village elders, his love for his ailing wife and his veneration by the villagers. The series of anecdotes are in turn tender, sad, amusing, tragic and include a hilarious wake, a sensational seduction, a dramatic crossing of a frozen river, and a grimly humorous incident of a poacher who is forced to hide in an earth privy; but whatever the mood—and between them the episodes manager to cover almost the whole range of human emotion — every scene seems to be imbued with a real and honest feeling for the country and people.

This is the first feature film made by Fons Rademakers and with it he shows himself capable of sensitively drawn characterisation and able to capture the spirit and mood of this particular Dutch village. Max Croiset, with a dour performance as the doctor, and the fine camera work of Eduard Van der Ende, help hold the film together Perhaps some juxtaposition of disparate moods prevent the film from being outstanding, but it has a haunting quality that is not easy to forget. The debt which the director owes to Ingmar Bergman as friend, teacher and inspiration, is markedly apparent.

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