Review: ‘Interview’

A journalist and actress go head-to-head in "Interview," an engaging two-hander by quirky maverick Theo van Gogh that's let down by a weak ending. Though the stellar casting of Pierre Bokma and Katja Schuurman will mean little to non-Dutch eyes, pic largely works on its own terms as a well-written tussle between two seemingly irreconcilable egos.

A serious journalist and airhead actress go head-to-head in “Interview,” an engaging two-hander by quirky maverick Theo van Gogh that’s let down by a weak ending. Though the stellar casting of Pierre Bokma (a leading legit actor) and Katja Schuurman (a high-profile soap queen) will mean little to non-Dutch eyes, pic largely works on its own terms as a well-written tussle between two seemingly irreconcilable egos. Lensing direct to film, rather than via DV, would have increased the movie’s emotional resonance and commercial chances offshore, which look largely limited to the smaller screen, despite pic’s evident qualities.

Against his will, middle-aged political columnist-cum-reporter Pierre (Bokma) is sent to interview young actress Katja (Schuurman), the Netherlands’ biggest star from a host of trashy but successful movies. He dismisses her to a colleague as just “a couple of big tits” and things get off to a bad start when Katja arrives an hour late for the sesh at her own apartment, a modern-rustic attic with candles and a punching bag.

After trading insults — he admits he hasn’t seen any of her pics, she calls him unprofessional — both call a truce and set to do the job at hand, with her initially blindsiding him by admitting that though she’s “popular” she wouldn’t necessarily call herself a good actress. However, when she takes a call from a tearful friend (Ellen ten Damme), he takes the opportunity to steal a look at her diary.

Though Pierre is her intellectual superior, Katja marshals her showbiz experience against him, “interviewing” him with her digicam as if he were the star with breast implants. Instead, Pierre shows her his chest scar from a grenade wound he got in Bosnia.

The to-and-fro continues, with Schuurman — who’s already playing a character uncomfortably close to her own persona (star of the hit soap “Good Times Bad Times”) — superb in this opening act, gutsy and sexy, with the viewer never quite sure which of her many emotions are real or faked.

Bokma, in the less showy role, is equally fine, showing a depth of feeling — but never losing his professional detachment — in the quieter second act as he recounts the story of a Bosnian whore who blew herself up in a bar. Point is repeatedly made that both characters make their living by remaining distanced from reality.

As the emotional stakes rise, and Pierre realizes he’s lost the game if he gives in to her sexual advances, pic enters its final act, with some surprises on both sides.

Scripter Theodor Holman keeps the chemistry bubbling between the two leads with fruity dialogue that only occasionally rings phony or false. More’s the pity that the resolution comes off as one-sided and dramatically unsatisfying.

Transfer from DV is just OK.

Interview

Netherlands

Production

A Shooting Star Film Distribution release of a Column Producties production. (International sales: Column, Amsterdam.) Produced by Theo van Gogh, Gijs van de Westelaken. Executive producer, Van de Westelaken. Directed by Theo van Gogh. Screenplay, Theodor Holman; idea, Hans Teeuwen.

Crew

Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Thomas Kist; editor, Leon Verkade; music, Rainer Hensel; art director, Ruud van Dijk; costumes-interior designer, Katja Schuurman; sound (Dolby Digital), Leo Franssen, Wilfried van Baelen; assistant director, Doesjka van Hoogdalem. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 7, 2003. Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Pierre Bokma, Katja Schuurman, Ellen ten Damme, Theo Maassen, Michiel de Jong.
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