It’s All So Quiet

There are no easy rewards for the protagonist -- or indeed, the viewer -- of "It's All So Quiet," the austere but subtly powerful fifth feature of Dutch auteur Nanouk Leopold ("Wolfsbergen," "Brownian Movement").

With: Jeroen Willems, Henri Garcin, Wim Opbrouck, Martijn Lakemeier, Lies Visschedijk. (Dutch dialogue)

There are no easy rewards for the protagonist — or indeed, the viewer — of “It’s All So Quiet,” the austere but subtly powerful fifth feature of Dutch auteur Nanouk Leopold (“Wolfsbergen,” “Brownian Movement”). More inspired by than literally adapted from Gerbrand Bakker’s bestseller, “The Twin,” the pic charts the much-belated coming-of-age of a fiftysomething, closed-mouthed farmer who decides to move his ailing, once-domineering father upstairs so he can finally come into his own down below. Hushed, superbly acted character study makes the silences count but nonetheless has a shot at niche theatrical exposure, especially in Euro and gay-friendly arthouses.

One of “Quiet’s” first shots is an immediate winner, combining everyday action and more symbolic meanings in a typically Leopoldesque way. Helmer (the late Jeroen Willems), a fit dairy-cattle farmer of about 55, carries his ill but still-stout father (Henri Garcin) up a flight of stairs to the attic, as seen from the landing below; the suggestive visual of one hulking adult body struggling to support another establishes how the father has become the son’s cross to bear.

Leopold’s ease with storytelling through sound (or lack thereof) and imagery is the main reason the film remains so involving. For a picture based on a literary work, even one of such Calvinist restraint as Bakker’s, there’s very little dialogue. It’s not even clear, for example, that Helmer’s sibling, who drowned before the film opens, is his twin brother, as the English-language title of the novel suggests. The book’s one major female role has been greatly reduced as well — surprisingly, as the director’s previous pics were mainly femme-focused.

What remains is a trio of men, all of few words, who define the limits of Helmer’s world: the father who’s slowly “dying of old age”; the kind, Belgian milk-truck driver (Wim Opbrouck) who is Helmer’s age and regularly comes to collect the farm’s milk; and a hunky young farmhand, Henk (Martijn Lakemeier), who turns up out of nowhere (unlike in the novel). The truck driver and the farmhand stir feelings of affection and desire, respectively, but the towering, if slowly withering, presence of his father upstairs makes it impossible for Helmer to act on his feelings.

The character development here is understated but beautifully laid bare by a quartet of top actors. Willems, a Dutch theater vet who died suddenly last December, gives a devastating performance as Helmer, who might think his true feelings are concealed by the eternally downward-pointing corners of his mouth, but who’s nonetheless easily readable for auds throughout. As his father, Belgian thesp Garcin (perhaps most famous for his role as Fanny Ardent’s cuckolded husband in Truffaut’s “The Woman Next Door”) provides the necessary gravitas and, despite his total dependence on his offspring for care, the sort of calculated indifference that would make a son hurt inside.

Flemish actor Opbrouck (“Can Go Through Skin”) and rising Dutch star Lakemeier (“Winter in Wartime”) are perfectly cast, even though Lakemeier’s role seems to have suffered the most from Leopold’s severe pruning of the original text, making the young man’s actions necessary, story-wise, but not always clearly motivated.

Departing from the novel’s Waterland backdrop, just northeast of Amsterdam, the film is set in rural Zeeland, near the Belgian border, and Leopold uses the open surrounding fields as a nice counterweight to the farm’s dark, closed-off interiors without driving home the parallels too forcefully. Her first film shot with digital cameras feels looser in approach but no less composed, while the minimalist sound design amplifies surface silences as well as underlying tensions.

Popular on Variety

It's All So Quiet


Production: A Cineart (in Netherlands), Salzgeber & Co. Medien (in Germany) release of a Circe Films, N279 Entertainment presentation and production, in association with Coin Film, VPRO, ZDF/3Sat. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Stienette Bosklopper, Els Vandevorst. Co-producer, Herbert Schwering. Directed, written by Nanouk Leopold, based on the novel "The Twin" by Gerbrand Bakker.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Frank van den Eeden; editor, Katharina Wartena; music, Paul M. van Brugge; production designer, Elsje de Bruijn; costume designers, Manon Blom, Ute Paffendorf; sound (Dolby SRD), Andreas Hildebrandt; line producer, Ada Goossens; line producer (Germany), Christine Kiauk; casting, Janusz Gosschalk, Harm van der Sanden. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama Special -- opener), Feb. 8, 2013. Running time: 91 MIN.

Cast: With: Jeroen Willems, Henri Garcin, Wim Opbrouck, Martijn Lakemeier, Lies Visschedijk. (Dutch dialogue)

More Scene

  • Jessica Biel Limetown Premiere

    Why 'Limetown' Star & Producer Jessica Biel Thought the Show Was Based on a True Story

    In a world of increasingly outlandish headlines, the story behind “Limetown” — in which an entire community in rural Tennessee disappears overnight — seems plausible. Even Jessica Biel, who executive produces and stars in the Facebook Watch television adaptation of the hit 2015 podcast, was initially convinced that it was real. “I just thought I [...]

  • Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Watchmen

    Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Talks 'Watchmen,' 'Matrix 4': 'I'm Not Nervous At All'

    Yahya Adbul-Mateen II is facing some serious pressure. The actor is in the middle of a massive career surge, taking on roles in HBO’s “Watchmen” and the upcoming “Matrix 4” — and with those roles, the expectations of their fans.  “I have the responsibility of upholding something that was already done while also bringing in [...]

  • David Lindelof Watchmen Premiere

    'Watchmen' Creator Damon Lindelof Weighs in on Martin Scorsese's Marvel Criticisms

    Damon Lindelof disagrees with Martin Scorsese about his recent claims that Marvel movies don’t qualify as cinema. The director’s proclamation, along with the polarized critical reception of “Joker,” are the latest salvos in a long history of questioning comic book movies’ place in cinematic history. The lingering question: Can superhero fare be considered “high art?” [...]

  • Anne Hathaway Modern Love

    Anne Hathaway Talks Mental Health Awareness, Playing a Bipolar Woman on Amazon's 'Modern Love'

    In Amazon Prime’s upcoming “Modern Love,” Anne Hathaway sheds light on an important facet of living with mental health issues, playing a bipolar woman who struggles with dating. “We’re all becoming more sensitive, wiser and more cognizant of gentility, and especially emotional gentility. I think those conversations are starting to happen. And I think the desire [...]

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content