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Review: Villa of Roses (2002)

Directed by: | 120 minutes | | Actors: Julie Delpy, , , Shirley Henderson, Timothy West, , Toni Barry, , , , , Rifka Lodeizen, Halina Reijn, , Gary Whelan , , , Simon Chefnourry, Jean Hayet, , , , Phil Kaizer, Chris Anthony, , Malkiel Golomb, , Peter van den Eede, , Philippe Vincent, orchestra The New String

Visually beautiful looking film, which falls too short on the content to be able to captivate the full two hours; that is the essence of “Villa des Roses”. The film is an international co-production, on which subsidies from many European countries have been spent and where the Dutch actresses Rifka Lodeizen and Halina Reijn can also be seen in small roles.

The Flemish Alfons de Ridder (better known by his pseudonym Willem Elsschot) made his debut in 1913 with his novel “Villa des Roses”. It is generally regarded as one of his best works, although it is perhaps less well known than “Glues / The Been”. In an interesting parallel, the debuting director Frank van Passel has taken on the first cinema adaptation of “Villa des Roses”. The novel has been edited twice before: in 1968 as a miniseries and in 1989 as a television film, both times in Belgium, but never before for the silver screen. It has turned out to be a fairly successful and faithful rendering of Elschot’s concise and precise prose. The book was in part an allegory of old Europe, a powder keg of nationalism, militarism, greed and alliances, for which one fuse (the assassination of the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary) was enough to set things ablaze. The comparison with the situation just before the First World War is quite subtly woven into the story, although the opening and closing scenes in the trenches are undeniably striking.

As befits a European co-production, based on a book in which characters of different nationalities act, the film has an international cast: the Frenchwoman Julie Delpy plays the female lead of the French Louise Créteur, while the Englishman Shaun Dingwell the German Richard Grünewald plays. Also English are Harriet Walter and Timothy West as Olive and Hugh, the owners of the Villa des Roses. The Scottish Shirley Henderson plays maid Ella and Belgian Jan Decleir has a (unfortunately!) Small role as Monsieur Brizard. The cast also includes more Belgians, supplemented by the aforementioned Dutch actresses, who portray various European nationalities such as Norwegian and Hungarian. The acting is good, although the romance between Louise and Richard is sometimes portrayed a bit unbelievably. With character actors such as Decleir, Dora van der Groen and West (who for example played Winston Churchill several times) show their qualities in their supporting roles. Henderson (Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter films) has a type of voice that will not immediately excite everyone, but that shouldn’t be a distraction for her excellent portrayal of Louise’s fellow maid, roommate and confidant Ella.

Van Passel has a rich eye for detail and is brimming with visual flair. With this he manages to shake up a number of beautiful shots and conjure up original camera angles. From a technical point of view, he certainly knows his trade, given the beautiful longshots of the Paris skyline, which are reminiscent of an old-fashioned postcard (for which actual panoramic maps were used as a basis) and the lightning-fast forwarding of the camera through the pipes connecting the rooms. connect with each other. “Villa des Roses” took home the “Hollywood Discovery Award” for Best Picture at the Hollywood Film Festival. Director Van Passel was nominated for the Joseph Plateau award (most important Belgian film prizes) for best direction and actresses Walter and Henderson were nominated as best actress at the British Independent Film Festival.

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