Review: Unknown Bread (2016)

Directed by: Dennis Alink | 85 minutes | documentary | With: Herman Brood, Xandra Brood, Beppie Brood, Lola Brood, Holly Mae Brood, Frank Black, Bono, Freddi Cavalli, Bart Chabot, Anton Corbijn, Jules Deelder, Nina Hagen, David Hollestelle, Dany Lademacher, Hans Lafaille, Kees Meerman, Jan Schuurman, Henkjan Smits, Brenda van der Biezen, Dorien van der Valk, Koos van Dijk, Willem Venema, Henny Vrienten

Director Dennis Alink received an old box with a collection of videotapes from the legendary rock ‘n’ roll junkie Herman Brood. In the recordings, Brood strides through Amsterdam with a video camera aimed at himself, sneaks into his house like a burglar or sings a song behind a piano. They are plays for an imaginary audience, that is clear, because he invariably addresses the still unknown viewer with ladies and gentlemen. They are amusing and sometimes insightful images, which Alink combines together with other archive material and own recordings into a fluid story about shameless self-promotion and destruction.

The documentary ‘Unknown Brood’ (2016) is about the rise and fall of Holland’s most famous rock star and junkie, and Alink takes the suicide of Brood, who jumped from the roof of the Amsterdam Hilton in 11 June 2001, as a starting point. Anyone who knew Brood, or at least had listened carefully to his lyrics, could know that he had a death wish. He had also announced early on the way in which a jump from the roof — especially from the Hilton — was an obsession for him. His sister endorses this image, according to her, her brother would have committed suicide long ago if the drugs had not been there.

Alink focuses almost exclusively on the aspect of the addiction, its consequences for his private life, and his physical deterioration. He thus portrays a restless man who tackles his fears with sex, drugs and the longing for the eternal fame of rock ‘n’ roll. Salvation through death could not come until the great work was done, and meanwhile there was the alcohol and speed to keep the inner demons at bay.

Unfortunately, we do not find out exactly what those demons were. You would expect his family to be able to comment on this, but this prominent theme remains strikingly vague in the story. We can dismiss it as a fear of life, or later, as a fear of not counting anymore in the pantheon of the Dutch gods. However, this is so common that it does not bring us much closer to Brood.

According to his sister, Brood plays Brood in front of the camera and he is himself at home. It is an observation that is not endorsed by anyone else, and in everything that passes by, also in his own homemade films, we see the Brood again as we knew him from television, or on the street when he has his pants just below his buttocks, raced through the Spuistraat on a scooter: fearless or vulnerable, witty or drunk. Brood liked to show what it’s like to be Brood; the drugs showed openly the soul life of a closed man.

However nicely the story of ‘Unknown Brood’ is told, it does not add much to the existing image; if there is another Bread, it still remains unknown.

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