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Review: Zieleman (2011)

Directed by: Ben Sombogaart | 84 minutes | drama, family | Actors: Michael Nierse, Reinier Bulder, Bruno Vanden Broucke, Annet Malherbe, Robert de Hoog, Fockeline Ouwerkerk, Hanneke Riemer, Pim Lambeau, Walter Crommelin,

Blanco of about eleven years old has the idea that everything he does has an influence on his environment. You know it: he has to walk on a sidewalk in a special way, exactly when the church bell has been struck twelve times in your bed, because otherwise…, things like that. Until now it works fine: Blanco has had few problems in his short life. This is of course because he gives his members secret powers through his special shamanic rituals. He performs this in the tower of the church, where his father, who is a pastor, normally preaches to a very small-scale audience (read: his family and a maximum of three fellow villagers). Blanco is the youngest of the Zondervan family, which, in addition to the strict pastor father, consists of a mother with hairdressing ambitions and his older brother Jacob. His world will soon be turned upside down.

Jacob (relatively small, but good role by Robert de Hoog), for reasons that are still unclear, gets into a serious fight with father IJsbrand (Reinier Bulder) and leaves, leaving Blanco in a state of shudder. Mother Edna (the always reliable Annet Malherbe) stands squarely behind her adolescent son and continuously blames her husband. It has even come to the point that Edna and IJsbrand both go to live somewhere else, because life under one roof is no longer possible! How is Blanco supposed to knit this? He decides that the only solution is to perform a magical power trick, which requires a black crow’s feather. When Blanco climbs the church tower as the last part of his spell, he hears a strange horn: help is coming!

Ben is convinced: he caused the arrival of handyman Ben Zieleman (whose car carries the slogan “for everything you cannot do yourself”). Ben has to solve the problems between his parents! Strangely enough, Ben only has time for other jobs, such as making the sewage system in the village. He pays a lot of attention to the heavily pregnant Mira in particular. Frustrated, Ben eventually decides to resolve the argument between his parents and brother.

The events in the village of Buijsrogge are just outside reality. Just take the way Blanco dresses up: the crazy hat with the shiny football shorts over his long (pajama) pants; or the enlarged way in which the villagers and Zieleman are portrayed. On the other hand, the themes, such as arguing parents, the conflict between parent and child, wanting to make sure your is doing well as Blanco does, and the idea that he has that it is all his fault, are again very recognizable. That dramatic effect ensures that the viewer has the idea for a long time that things will never work out again. As a result, the balance is occasionally a bit lost, but fortunately director has the reins firmly in hand to round off the story in a way that is satisfactory to the viewer.

“Zieleman” is beautifully designed, with great attention to detail. The acting is strong. Michael Nierse, who we know from (and as) “Dik Trom”, holds his own between veterans like and Reinier Bulder. The Flemish Bruno Vanden Broucke (“Loft”, 2008) also impresses with his rendition of Ben Zieleman: he knows how to make the viewer very curious: is he really the savior who summoned Blanco or is it a coincidence? The subject matter makes the television film “Zieleman” not a light-hearted children’s film, but fans of magically realistic stories can indulge themselves in this absurdist fairytale.

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