Jul 20, 2014

Review: Kleine Teun [Little Tony] (1998)

Alex van Warmerdam is a director/screenwriter/actor who hails from the Netherlands. Oh, he's also a painter. Kleine Teun was his fourth directorial effort which he wrote, directed and acted in. He also gets his wife Annet Malherbe in on the action, who plays his for-the-screen wife as well. It's not the first time she's been in one of his movies either.

Kleine Teun was originally screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. Tueur à gages was the winner in that category for 1998 but I can say that I preferred Kleine Teun a little bit more. The movie starts off without any surprises for the most part before completely losing its mind. It's worth a watch to say the least.

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Genre: comedy, drama, romance
Directed by: Alex van Warmerdam
Produced by: Patricia McMahon, Ton Schippers, Alex van Warmerdam, Marc van Warmerdam
Written by:  Alex van Warmerdam
Music by: Alex van Warmerdam
Running time: 95 minutes
Production company: Graniet Film BV
Distributed by: Kairos Filmverleih, Look Now!, Cult Filmes, etc
Country: Netherlands
Language: Dutch
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Alex van Warmerdam, Annet Malherbe, Ariane Schluter, Sebastiaan te Wierik, Aat Ceelen, Beppe Costa, Joeri Keyzers, Rick Keyzers, Maike Meijer

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Synopsis

 

Brand (Alex van Warmerdam) is an everyman farmer who is unable to read. He's been with his wife Keet (Annet Malherbe) for twenty years and she's fed up with his refusal to learn how to read. She surprises him with a personal tutor the next day after having read the subtitles to a movie one too many times for Brand. Lena (Ariane Schluter) is young, attractive and Brand is instantly smitten. Tension builds up pretty quick before an extremely bizarre arrangement is made in an attempt to appease the situation.

Review

 

The humour in Kleine Teun is quiet and reserved before basically disappearing completely. I was expecting more of a comedy/drama movie when I sat down but that's not really what Kleine Teun is at all. It starts off as one, but quickly changes tone. I don't say that in a critical way because the tonal shift was gentle and well done. As I look back at the film now, I can clearly see some things which I thought were funny at first but aren't really anymore.

The story that Alex van Warmerdam's has written is an odd one and bizarrely creepy given the role he assigned his wife. I'm sure they both had a laugh about it during the making of it but boy, is it ever weird. Annet Malherbe was nominated for best actress at the European Film Awards and the Netherlands Film Festival Awards which she really did earn. The final ten minutes or so of her screen time are absolutely chilling.

The film takes place mostly in or around Brand and Keet's farmhouse, but that's a good thing. It's a great setup and the single location never gets stale. There's also basically no score to speak of which just heightens the effects of the dialogue and the mounting tension. van Warmerdam and Schluter also put on nice performances and have good chemistry together.

Kleine Teun is a movie that slowly builds itself up before it's big climax. It's slow, calculating and it's bolstered by the performances of its actors. I keep talking about the climax but it really is worth the wait. Really, my stomach was doing belly flops until the denouement. Kleine Teun is wonderfully bizarre and Alex van Warmerdam is pretty lucky to have Annet Malherbe as his wife. She must be pretty damn cool to be OK with playing the role that she did.

Rating

 

7.5/10