Review: Sailor (1998)

Sailor (1998)

Directed by: Bavo Defurne | 16 minutes | short film, fantasy | Actors: Joram Schurmans, Tom de With, Tim Peters, Hilde Wils, Jason Nardone

Desire is a theme that actually occurs in all of Bavo Defurne’s films. Dreamy young men who, like hopeless romantics, yearn for that one unattainable love. This desire is unmistakably present in ‘Sailor’ (1998), the first film that the Flemish filmmaker made in colour. A young man (played by Joram Schurmans, who would also be seen two years later in ‘Campfire’) yearns for his neighbor boy, who is a sailor. While his object of affection braves the raging waves, Joram dreams of exotic places and beautiful starry skies. He is convinced that his neighbor also longs for him and that his homesickness will bring him home again. But dreams often turn out to give a distorted picture of reality…

Bare bodies, kitschy designs and even a true phallus symbol: unlike its predecessors, ‘Sailor’ is clearly a gay movie. The film refers, among other things, to Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s ‘Querelle’ (1982), in which a sailor is also central. We also see the surrealistic sets that underlined the abstract character of Fassbinder’s film. The two-dimensional sets and amateurish effects give ‘Sailor’ something clumsy, artificial and at the same time funny. It is undoubtedly a conscious choice of the director, but unfortunately this ‘made’ style doesn’t work out well. The color explosion should make the film lively, but the flat compositions make even the brightest red or brightest blue look pale. The film doesn’t look as nice and stylish as Defurne’s other films, probably because the material was used moderately. The story doesn’t really catch on either, because it’s all very straight forward (especially for Defurnes) and leaves nothing to the imagination. After the gems ‘Particularly now, in Spring’ and especially ‘Saint’, ‘Sailor’ is a real disappointment.

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