Review: ‘Black Swans’

Two beautiful young people meet on a deserted beach in southern Spain and fall madly, obsessively in love in Colette Bothof's attractive feature bow, "Black Swans." What distinguishes the tale from standard summer romances is the girl's gradual descent into madness and self-destruction.

Two beautiful young people meet on a deserted beach in southern Spain and fall madly, obsessively in love in Colette Bothof’s attractive feature bow, “Black Swans.” What distinguishes the tale from standard summer romances is the girl’s gradual descent into madness and self-destruction. Set in an abstract time and place, film thrusts its two young thesps to the foreground, where they carry the story off pretty well. Fests rather than theatrical will provide most offshores berths, though its standout visuals could help pic slip into the odd market.

Sexy beachcomber Vince (Dragan Bakema) meets redheaded Marleen (Carice van Houten) when she comes to his remote beach for a swim. He shows her his digs on an abandoned boat and before long they’re in each other’s arms. As a sign of his affection, he pays to have a ring tattooed on her finger.

Marleen is a little prickly, but she seems normal enough in her unpaid job in a deluxe rest home for the elderly. As her passion for Vince grows by leaps and bounds, she moves in with him. Only when she gets a huge “Vince” tattooed on her back does he begin to get worried. She breaks chairs in a temper tantrum, and, when he vanishes, she tries to cut off the ring tattoo. The resulting mutilation lands her in a psychiatric hospital. Interestingly, the film comes down on the psychiatrists’ side: Vince’s frenzied efforts to bust her from the hospital in the name of love and freedom only lead to pic’s tragic denouement.

Van Houten digs deep to bring out the childish side of Marleen’s personality, with her frightening masochism just a layer below. Two mutilation scenes, in particular, are skilfully acted and directed to give auds a chill. As Vince, Bakema alternates strength and sensitivity with a destructive variety of amour fou.

Pic is very prettily lensed by cinematographer Richard Van Oosterhout, who turns the coastline into a virgin fantasy space for the lovers to play out their drama in.

Black Swans

Netherlands

Production

An A-Film Distribution release (in the Netherlands) of an M+B Film/Phanta Vision Film Intl. production. (International sales: M+B Film, Amsterdam.) Produced by Rolf Koot, Petra Goedings. Directed by Collette Bothof. Screenplay, Arend Steenbergen.

Crew

Camera (color), Richard Van Oosterhout; editor, Sander Vos; music, Han cq Otten; production designer, Gerard Loomans; sound (Dolby Digital), Bart Jilesen. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Cinema of the Future), Jan. 31, 2005. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Marleen -- Carice van Houten Vince -- Dragan Bakema
With: Mohammed Chaara, Tamara Louw, Mercedes Lotero, Anna Sanchez Marques, Hector Porqueros, Maribel Morenok, Jesus Ortiz.
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