Vox Populi (2008)
Directed by: Eddy Terstall | 118 minutes | comedy | Actors: Tom Jansen, Johnny de Mol, Esmarel Gasman, Tara Elders, Bata Miodrag Milojevic, Femke Lakerveld, Ton Kas, Marion van Thijn, Beppie Melissen, Hilde Van Mieghem, Hakim Traidia, Dragan Bakema, Marie Vinck, Dirk Zeelenberg, Eva Duijvestein , Marcel Musters, Matthijs van Nieuwkerk, Turan Furat, Fouad Mourigh, Jeroen Pauw, Natasja Loturco, Charlie Dagelet, Dieuwertje Blok, Freek de Jonge, Yoeri Albrecht, Paul Witteman, Frederique Spigt, Marlies Bark, Mei Li Vos, Tes Op den Dries , Max Pam, Farhane El Hamchaoui, Cees Grimbergen, Felix Rottenberg
‘Vox Populi’ is the third part of Eddy Terstall’s triptych about the Netherlands at the beginning of the twenty-first century. In the first two parts, the strong ‘Simon’ and the corny ‘Sextet’, praise was sung for achievements such as euthanasia and sexual freedom. In ‘Vox Populi’, the emphasis is on potential threats to those achievements, in the form of wandering politicians and fundamentalist Muslims. Ideally, that would have resulted in a sharp and funny satire, but ‘Vox Populi’ did not turn out to be that.
The echoes of Terstall’s own political escapades are amusing, loud and clear here. But a sharp political satire requires a sharp drawing of the political business, and that is not the case here. Politician Jos Fransen responds in all respects to the popular cliché of the opportunistic pickpocket. He takes a vacation at the taxpayer’s expense, sniffs, pounces on his interns and has little interest in his family. His political maneuvers are as predictable as his character and therefore never really witty.
Opposite the clichéd politician is the cliché of the good-hearted inhabitant of Amsterdam’s Jordaan. We meet him in the person of paterfamilias Nico. Nico says the things a politician shouldn’t say (until the politician understands that political incorrectness brings votes and he makes a 180-degree turn). In the view of this Jordanian family man, Muslims in particular are responsible for a lot of misery, especially those who refuse to conform to the Dutch idea of freedom. Nico’s own idea of freedom is somewhat muddled. Topless sunbathing should be possible everywhere, but when a man in traditional Arab clothing walks by, he gets the wind from the front. Anyone who comes too close to Nico’s territory, he chases away with a gun and when he is faced with official opposition, he drags the officer on duty from his civil servants’ cubicle.
Of course you can’t blame a fictional character for its inconsistency, but then you expect a clear vision from the screenwriter/director. It’s missing here. At first you suspect that Terstall’s sympathy lies with Nico and his clan, although their ideas lack every nuance. But as the film progresses, you get the feeling that Terstall doesn’t even know anymore. If at the end of the film, after an unbelievable plot twist, a statement falls from the sky in which everything that has gone before is turned upside down, you as a viewer are lost for good.
Does that make ‘Vox Populi’ a dredging film? Well no. The film is easy to sit through thanks to a few hilarious scenes and the many smooth dialogues. Terstall also once again proves his talent for presenting functional nude and non-functional sex in a tasteful and casual manner. Moreover, the young couple Sjef and Zoë (the excellent acting Johnny De Mol and Tara Elders) provide some nuance and humanity. Nevertheless, ‘Vox Populi’ leaves a confusing impression. You could call that a perfect reflection of the zeitgeist. We don’t do that anyway.