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THE NORTHERNERS

Netherlands, 1992 (MIFF 1993)

Director: Alex van Warmedam

Populated by tragi-comic figures plagued with suppressed feelings of lust and a singular Calvinist-Catholic morality, The Northerners is a witty and original comedy reminiscent of a style and vision which blends Jacques Tati and Aki Kaurismaki. The film starts out as a social satire about post-war reconstruction and, via a bitter family burlesque, turns into a sinister fairy-tale.

Holland anno 1960. In the only completed street of a huge, since-abandoned, housing project, next to an ominously dark forest, a lot of warped characters and an abundance of suffering is hidden behind bland domestic facades. The inhabitants lead an isolated life, the mail and radio connecting them with the outside world. The butcher and his wife are tormented by sexual problems, their neglected 12-year-old son, Thomas, likes to dress as his current hero, the (soon to be assassinated) Congo leader Patrice Lumumba, the local Hunter is near-sighted and libidoless, with a hot-blooded wife he cannot satisfy, and the nosy postman is a scopophihac, obsessed with the private lives of his customers, reading their mail before delivering it. Add to this a travelling missionary exhibition, coupled with a modern manifestation of saintly martyrdom, and you begin to appreciate the outrageous, oddball appeal of this hyper-realistic variation on everyday reality, in which human behaviour is studied with apparent reserve, as if it were a strange species.

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