Charting an irreconcilable relationship against the backdrop of countercultural Amsterdam, “Love Hurts” (aka “Heartrending”) channels electric lead performances into a seismic look at passion’s outer limits. Incisive sophomore feature from Mijke de Jong should forge a considerable rep for the Dutch femme helmer as it travels the fest trail.
Repeatedly blurring the line separating love and hate, de Jong and co-scripter Jan Eilander piece together a forceful examination of a couple in their mid-30s agonizing between undeniable love and insurmountable conflict.
Fringe dweller Lou (Marieke Heebink) juggles immigration-rights activism with singing gigs. Her partner, Bob (Mark Rietman), is a lawyer in a small firm that jars with Lou’s scheme of social commitment.
Disagreements are initially low-key. His yen for physical comfort clashes with her reluctance to give up or renovate her ramshackle houseboat. He wants children while she shies from compromise to her freedom.
But fractiousness skyrockets into virtual war as circumstances increasingly threaten Lou’s security, and Bob retreats into his work.
Gentrification of the docks area is steadily eating up her stomping ground; a refugee friend (Tanar Catalpinar) is drowned in a police skirmish; her HIV-positive singing partner (Andre-Arend Van Noord) starts pragmatically planning for death. Her unwelcome pregnancy further aggravates the rift.
What sets this apart from love’s-a-bitch sagas is that nothing in the script or direction implies observation from an outside vantage point. The unobtrusive direction goes for total immersion in the couple’s rocky rapport.
Joost Van Starrenburg’s edgy camerawork admirably mirrors the up-close attitude, crowding in on the actors and inviting in the audience. Menno Boerema’s tight editing shows similarly sharp alignment.
Perfs are refreshingly free from artifice. Neither Heebink nor Rietman has a false moment; their fights send out sparks, exploding in what often seems like spontaneous improvisation. Backup thesping is solid all around.