Review: ‘Duska’

A milquetoast film critic can't muster the courage to take what he wants from life in cult helmer Jos Stelling's visually appealing but annoyingly silly "Duska."

A milquetoast film critic can’t muster the courage to take what he wants from life in cult helmer Jos Stelling’s visually appealing but annoyingly silly “Duska.” This weak Dutch entry for the foreign-language film Oscar starts well, with playful, warmhearted lensing following the shy protag as he watches his fantasy girl, but soon the characters become a deadly combination of unfunny and moronic, like Mr. Bean without the charm. Local figures from the pic’s October release were unimpressive, though the Stelling name (“The Flying Dutchman”) has bagged fest bookings.

Bob (Stelling regular Gene Bervoets) voyeuristically watches a sexy blonde (Sylvia Hoeks) work the counter of a cinema near his home. Too intimidated to speak (the pic’s first section is wordless), Bob watches until she teasingly gets in his car, but the line of communication shuts quickly. Just when it reopens, in comes Duska (Sergei Makovetsky), a Russian simpleton Bob met years before at a Soviet film festival, who now thinks he can stay forever. Stelling tries to combat the goofiness with slow pacing and dampened emotions, but it’s not enough, and Hoeks, the pic’s best feature, exits too quickly.

Duska

Netherlands-Russia

Production

An Eyeworks Egmond BV, NPS, Jos Stelling Films (Netherlands)/TVIndie Film Production (Russia) production. Produced by Hans de Weers, Hans de Wolf, Reinout Oerlemans. Directed by Jos Stelling. Screenplay, Stelling, Hans Heesen.

Crew

Camera (color), Goert Giltay; editor, Bert Rijkelijkhuizen; music, Bart van den Lisdonk; production designer, Gert Brinkers; costume designer, Anne Verhoeven. Reviewed at Festival of European Films on Wheels, Kars, Turkey, Nov. 14, 2007. (Also in Pusan Film Festival -- World Cinema.) Running time: 112 MIN.

With

Gene Bervoets, Sylvia Hoeks, Sergei Makovetsky, Anne Verhoeven. (Dutch, Russian dialogue)
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