Directed by: Mike van Diem | 90 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Gijs Naber, Lidia Vitale, Donatella Finocchiaro, Giorgio Pasotti, Ksenia Solo, Giancarlo Giannini, Anneke Sluiters, Elena Cantarone, Peter Schildelhauer, Totò Onnis, Gianni Pezzolla, Rita Montes
The traditional Dutch farmer Gauke (Gijs Naber) is more than fed up with the Dutch cold, precipitation and flooding in ‘Tulipani’. The flood disaster of 1953 is the final straw. Without looking back, the blonde giant sets off by bicycle to sunny Italy. The folded landscape of Puglia, in the Italian heel, becomes its new home port. Only there he foresees a future for him and his dream woman Ria (Anneke Sluiters). With a renewed zest for life, he sets up an equally traditional Dutch tulip nursery, which should give him the fortune to let Ria come over and enjoy a carefree existence together.
Not much has come of that carefree life, as appears thirty years later when Anna (Ksenia Solo), who grew up in Montreal, Canada, travels to her Italian native region to scatter the ashes of her recently deceased mother. There she learns more about her past and that of her alleged mother. A history that shows great similarities with that of the mysterious and almost sacred portrayed Dutch tulip grower who disappeared from the face of the earth thirty years earlier.
What unfolds is an extremely sympathetic, wonderfully portrayed and beautifully acted love fairy tale. Yet the narrative is not fully understood. Just like in his previous film, ‘The Surprise’ (2015), Oscar-winning director Mike van Diem does not stick to the conventions associated with the romantic film. That idiosyncrasy is laudable, yet it cannot prevent ‘Tulipani’ from going a bit out of control in farcicality and lack of conviction. For example, the cultural differences between the down-to-earth Dutch farmer and the temperamental Italians are magnified quite theatrically. The first to even practice his spaghetti, as he has always done with his potatoes. The other the ever stylishly dressed, tough macho. But at the same time with an adorable ‘mother’ tattoo. The language difference also regularly results in crazy situations. The question arises whether it will not be too much of a good thing.
In addition, the structure of two stories in one is quite cumbersome. For example, Anna’s story is nothing more than a coat rack on which the typically Italian exaggerated reconstruction of Gauke’s life is hung. Anna learns a lot about her origins, but it doesn’t seem to make a real impression on her. Indifference is therefore lurking in the viewer. Because of the farcicality and the distance to some characters, scenes in which drama are central do not come across as such. As a result, ‘Tulipani’ remains a sympathetic but also somewhat one-dimensional feel-good film at all times. More could have been done there.