Review: Hidden Flaws (2004)


Director: Paula van der Oest | 103 minutes | drama | Actors: Henny Orri, Priscilla Knetemann, Eric van der Donk, Monic Hendrickx, Hunter Bussemaker, Bram van den Hooven, Antje van der Oest

Book adaptations are popular among Dutch filmmakers, but it is a difficult genre. The deeper thoughts or historical events behind the main characters are often difficult to translate into film. In the past, author Renate Dorrestein regularly received offers to film a book by her, but time and again that led to nothing; the production turned out to be too expensive and complex, or the scenario was of insufficient quality. She was more successful with her twelfth book “Hidden Flaws” from 1996. Screenwriter Tamara Bos turned out to be able to turn it into a useful film script. Initially, the script lasted nine hours of film, but by scrapping all kinds of storylines it has been reduced to a normal feature length.

“Hidden Flaws” has become a compelling film that runs like a train, in which the personal drama is beautifully juxtaposed with images of the Scottish coastal landscape. The Scottish climate expresses what happens in parallel in human interaction. Gray skies that predict nothing but storms, but in which sometimes a bright strip of sun puts the whole in a lovely light. In this way, events also pile up like dark clouds that announce well in advance that this cannot end well. Brief breakthroughs of love between people are overshadowed by betrayal, abuse, hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness from family or neighbors. In that sense it is actually a “nasty” movie.

The old lady Agnes Stam (played by Hennie Orrie), who tries to take care of two runaway children, is the unmistakably central figure. While she cautiously manages to approach the deeply troubled children with their terrible secrets, she herself becomes increasingly a victim of the situation and her own family secrets. She tries hard to resolve the situation, but the case goes from bad to worse. Actress Hennie Orrie’s playing is brilliant, natural and compelling; rare of quality in Dutch film. This stage actress, who was already awarded the Theo d’Or in 1986, carries the film. The play of the other players, especially the children, comes across as rather pale and forced. In general children cannot really act and here too the game occasionally detracts from the story; unnatural pauses in dialogues, emotions made, strange language. Perhaps this also has to do with the script in which the psychology of the girl Chris is almost inimitably “borderline” and early adulthood. The figure of Chris therefore sometimes provokes more annoyance than sympathy.

“Hidden flaws” skillfully manages to maintain the tension surrounding the question of family secrets, a question that constantly returns as an undercurrent. Answers are subtly suggested without really exposing them. The relationship between Agnes and her favorite brother remains in secret and the incestuous relationship in the family with the two runaway children remains largely covered. But both “Hidden Flaws” do determine the fate of the children and the old lady. It is deeply moving how the old lady eventually manages to bend that fate and takes it heroically on her shoulders.