Review: ‘Guernsey’

An international aid worker specializing in irrigation projects discovers a seemingly content co-worker has hanged herself in "Guernsey." Ravishingly lensed, widescreen pic's purely cinematic qualities slightly outstrip its narrative ones as central protag, as a result of the apparent suicide, slowly -- very slowly -- questions whether the aspects of her own marriage she thought were cast in stone may be made of less sturdy material.

An international aid worker specializing in irrigation projects discovers a seemingly content co-worker has hanged herself in “Guernsey.” Ravishingly lensed, widescreen pic’s purely cinematic qualities slightly outstrip its narrative ones as central protag, as a result of the apparent suicide, slowly — very slowly — questions whether the aspects of her own marriage she thought were cast in stone may be made of less sturdy material. Fests, particularly women’s fests, should consider sophomore feature from scripter-helmer Nanouk Leopold.

Rock solid visual assurance carries the day in this tale of few words. Every few weeks, Anna (Maria Kraakman) commutes to Egypt from the home in Holland she shares with teacher hubby Sebastian (Fedja Van Huet) and their young son.

When abroad, Anna and other development workers from the West live in a compound with a locked gate. Not long after she meets a pleasant colleague who is also married and a mother, Anna finds the woman’s body dangling from the pipes in a shower stall. The dead woman’s husband has no idea why his wife killed herself. “I thought she was happy,” he says.

Reacting to the woman’s death, when Anna returns to Holland she secretly spies on her husband, wondering if anything in their apparently happy household could be other than it seems.

The fact that Anna’s older sister (Johanna Ter Steege) used to date Sebastian adds a layer of complication, as does the siblings’ widowed and remarried father’s decision to sell their childhood home and move to the tax haven of Guernsey.

Relying mostly on images rather than words, pic deftly explores the many ways in which people who should be highly attuned to each other may need a tune-up. Final dialogue exchange has a pleasing minimalist irony.

Guernsey

Netherlands

Production

A Circe Films, CosmoKino, VPRO Television production with contributions from Dutch Film Fund, CoBO Fund, Dutch Cultural Broadcasting Fund, Flemish Audiovisual Fund. (International sales: Holland Film, Amsterdam.) Produced by Stienette Bosklopper. Co-producer, Rudolf Mestdagh. Directed, written by Nanouk Leopold.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Richard van Oosterhout; editor, Katharina Wartena; production designer, Elsje de Bruijn; sound (Dolby), Hans Helewaut. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 15, 2005. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Maria Kraakman, Fedja Van Huet, Johanna Ter Steege, Frank Vercruyssen. (Dutch, English dialogue)
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