Directed by Victor Nieuwenhuijs, Maartje Seyferth | 85 minutes | drama | Actors: Titus Muizelaar, Nellie Benner, Kitty Courbois, Hugo Metsers, Wilma Bakker, Gurkan Gucuksenturk, Elvira Out, Frans Bakker, Jasper van Beusekom, Ali Sultan, Eric van Wijk, Guido Paulsen, Taco Schenkhuizen
It is to be hoped that the government will not cut back too much on culture, because there is a lot of artistic talent in the Netherlands that should be encouraged and supported, and given the opportunity to develop themselves in every respect. This applies, among others, to the filmmakers Maartje Seyferth and Victor Nieuwenhuis, who have already produced four films and, with their work, show that they have an interesting, artistic look. It is regrettable that the films do not always manage to communicate something valuable on every level, but this does not detract from their strengths and overall potential. An example of this is the latest film by this creative duo, called ‘Vlees’, a film with themes and points of interest familiar to Seyferth and Nieuwenhuis – such as lust and sexuality, and fear and violence – which regularly impresses visually and in its symbolism least thoughtful. At the same time, the film is less effective in telling its story and sketching the characters, and the form and aesthetics are used too self-consciously at times, so that the viewer never really becomes part of the film world and remains too distant.
Although the subjects of sexuality and violence appear to be constant factors in the work of Seyferth and Nieuwenhuis, stylistically they always opt for a new approach, clearly eager in their cinematographic exploration; or search for the perfect shape. There also seem to be other influences shining through the films. Their previous film, ‘Crepuscule’, operated with beautiful black and white photography and starring a beautiful young woman (Nellie Benner) (and her gun), was very reminiscent of the Nouvelle Vague period and a filmmaker like Jean-Luc Godard. ‘Meat’, however, shot in a generally sober color palette, evokes more associations with the work of David Lynch or Gaspar Noé because of the themes sexuality and violence and the gloomy atmosphere that continuously surrounds them, the purely symbolic moments in the film, and the disorienting structure of the film.
But just like in “Crepuscule” the emphasis is too much on the images themselves and too little on the story and the characters. Of course, a (coherent) story does not necessarily have to be told in a film and the characters do not really have to take shape (in a traditional way). After all, it can be a choice to let the film mainly be thematic and symbolic and to reduce the characters to archetypes and carriers or instruments of those themes. However, that choice does not seem to be made in ‘Meat’, or only half. On the one hand, it is very much about the visual and the symbolic – and, well, the erotic -, with interesting camera angles (like the butcher and Roxy filmed right from above as they move past each other behind the counter; or while having sex moments later. in the shower), beautiful compositions and lines (the detective walking past an apartment building, where his wife follows him in the same direction, three floors up from the gallery), silent or shocking moments between the indifferent detective and his desperate girlfriend, or the sudden appearance of live cows and sheep in the cold store. On the other hand, the makers also want to tell a traditional story about a murder, an investigation, and a bizarre denouement or revelation. A story that hardly captivates, because the characters themselves are often empty shells or arouse little sympathy, and the dialogue comes across as banal and is not always acted convincingly. You could even suspect the filmmakers that all this must consciously come across as clumsy and trivial, in order to show that language has become superfluous in this “world”. Even if the language and story were meant to be a kind of nod to the viewer who seems to crave traditional narration, the visual and symbolic aspects are not impressive or profound enough to make the point that this should be enough. to be. There must of course be more to the obvious association with the cuts of meat in the butcher’s shop and the female body or the relationship with human sexuality.
Maybe the makers also want to say that people are like animals, but is this enough? And shuffling with the timeline and mixing reality and fantasy, is that enough? It would have made a difference if attention had been paid less often to the camera work. Because, it is quite funny to see his younger colleague sitting at the desk in the reflection of the glasses of the detective, but for this shot for half a minute now. It goes a bit far. It is not that special or original. The shots are sometimes a bit too self-aware, which is at the expense of authenticity. Ultimately, there is much to admire in “Meat” but there is also enough to frustrate. If Seyferth and Nieuwenhuis were to make a clear choice in the matters they want to highlight – and give them the attention they deserve – this could result in a special and very successful film. “Meat” is just an interesting attempt at this point now.