Director: Eddy Terstall | 118 minutes | comedy | Actors: Tom Jansen, Johnny de Mol, Esmarel Gasman, Tara Elders, Bata Miodrag Milojevic, Femke Lakerveld, Ton Kas, Marion van Thijn, Beppie Melissen, Hilde Van Mieghem, Hakim Traidia, Dragan Bakema, Marie Vinck, Dirk Zeelenberg, Eva Duijvestein , Marcel Musters, Matthijs van Nieuwkerk, Turan Furat, Fouad Mourigh, Jeroen Pauw, Natasja Loturco, Charlie Dagelet, Dieuwertje Blok, Freek de Jonge, Yoeri Albrecht, Paul Witteman, Frederique Spigt, Marlies Bark, Mei Li Vos, Tes Op den Dries , Max Pam, Farhane El Hamchaoui, Cees Grimbergen, Felix Rottenberg
“Vox Populi” is the third part of Eddy Terstall’s triptych about the Netherlands at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The first two parts, the strong “Simon” and the corny “Sextet”, praised achievements such as euthanasia and sexual freedom. In “Vox Populi,” the focus is on potential threats to those achievements, in the form of drifting politicians and fundamentalist Muslims. Ideally, that would have resulted in a sharp and funny satire, but that did not become “Vox Populi”.
Amusing are the echoes of Terstall’s own political escapades, which can be heard loud and clear here. But sharp political satire requires a sharp drawing of the political business, and that’s not the case here. Politician Jos Fransen responds in every respect to the popular cliché of the opportunistic pocket filler. He takes a vacation at the expense of the taxpayer, he snorts, pounces on his interns and has little interest in his family. His political maneuvers are as predictable as his character and therefore never really witty.
Opposite the clichéd politician is the cliché of the kind-hearted inhabitant of the Amsterdam Jordaan. We find them in the person of pater familias Nico. Nico says the things a politician shouldn’t say (until the politician understands that political incorrectness gets votes and he makes a 180 degree turn). In the view of this Jordanian family man, Muslims in particular are responsible for a lot of misery, especially those who refuse to conform to the Dutch idea of freedom. Nico’s own idea of freedom is somewhat confused. Topless sunbathing should be possible everywhere, but if a man in traditional Arabic clothing walks by, he gets the wind from the front. Anyone who gets too close to Nico’s territory, he chases away with a rifle and when he faces official opposition, he drags the officer on duty out of his bureaucracy.
Of course you cannot blame a fictional character for its inconsistency, but then you expect a hinting vision from the screenwriter / director. It is missing here. At first you suspect that Terstall’s sympathy lies with Nico and his clan, although their ideas lack every nuance. But as the film progresses, you get more and more the idea that Terstall himself doesn’t know anymore. When at the end of the film, after an unbelievable plot twist, a statement falls from the sky in which everything before is turned upside down, you as a viewer are lost forever.
Does that make “Vox Populi” a dredging movie? Well no. The film is great to sit out thanks to a few hilarious scenes and the many smooth dialogues. Terstall also once again proves his talent for portraying functional nude and non-functional sex in a tasteful and casual way. Moreover, the young couple Sjef and Zoë (the fine acting Johnny De Mol and Tara Elders) provide some nuance and humanity. Nevertheless, “Vox Populi” leaves a confusing impression. You could call that a perfect representation of the zeitgeist. We won’t do that anyway.