Review: Vast (2011)


Director: Rolf van Eijk | 50 minutes | drama, short film | Actors: Tygo Gernandt, Sigrid ten Napel, Pieter van Terheijden

Isabel (Sigrid ten Napel) received two years of juvenile detention in “Vast”, by director Rolf van Eijk (script by Bastiaan Tichler). It is a severe punishment, which in reality is also imposed on underage murderers. Whatever she did, she has an excuse, a “history” that is exposed throughout the rest of the film. Even though Isabel does everything herself to hide herself. When she has to change in the presence of others, her shoulders are twisted together. When other girls in her cellblock ask questions, she jerks off or feigns an epileptic fit.

In part, “Vast” is a sketch of the ins and outs of a juvenile detention center. Sometimes Isabel is part of this, for example when she is dragged to an isolation cell, her arms spread out, her legs limply sweeping the ground. The routine actions of the escorts are recorded as if it were a ritual act; as if after a flowing dance movement, Isabel lands softly on the concrete floor. At other times, girls make a fuss in the background, while Isabel, as always, claims the foreground. Rightly so, because the power of “Vast” largely comes from Sigrid ten Napel. Only Tygo Gernandt, as her kickboxing trainer Mike, is an equal sparring partner here, literally and figuratively. He knows how to channel her aggression, and aggression is the only way Isabel dares to express herself. Ten Napel turns three quarters of an hour looking at Isabel into a fascinating, at times fascinating experience. Rarely has hatred been compressed so intensely on the silver screen as here, when Isabel looks her father in the eye. It is attack and defense at the same time. (Dapper Christians look like Mom and Dad, by the way. She a pearl necklace around her frail neck, he a spencer over his shirt.)

The camera is therefore constantly on the heels of Isabel. When at some point she looks back at kickboxing trainer Mike, the camera turns her gaze curiously. The pale blue, almost misty images also seem to represent the world as it reveals itself to Isabel. A world that acts somewhat faltering here and there. Isabel’s supervisor Justine (Sanneke Bos) consists of the desk she sits at, the clothes she wears, and sentences that Justine speaks as if she already knew them beforehand. Something similar is true for more people in the movie. Out of nowhere, a certain Dione (Saskia Nijholt) appears, who chastises herself, just like Isabel. Dione passes by even more often, like a black shadow with a haircut covering her face. It may be that this also depicts the subjective perception of Isabel, but it does not seem like it.

“Fixed” is primarily a three-dimensional slide – documentary and poetic, but also static in nature. That is to say, the movements in the story lack tension and surprise. Because friction and conflict remain too obedient and perfunctory and metaphors are too obvious. When “Jam” ends, with a big nod to “Les quatre cents coups” (the blueprint film for movies about cornered children), all the puzzle pieces are neatly where you expected them to be. But, as said, Isabel makes up for everything.