Friday, 13 April 2012

Johanna ter Steege & co in "Tirza" [2010 Netherlands]

Any meaningful synopsis of Rudolf van den Berg's engaging thriller "Tirza" is likely to be spoiler-ridden. So I'll try to keep it brief. The subject of the film is disconcerting in that it treads across a minefield of themes such as child prostitution and incest. But it is cleverly constructed to bring out a whole range of emotional responses from the audience, who are coerced into rooting for the flawed protagonist Jörgen right from the beginning, as a doting father, a wronged husband and lonely soul, and later as a hopelessly confused man. He goes to Namibia searching for his favourite daughter Tirza. Once there, a child prostitute Kaisa befriends and persuades Jörgen to take her with him in his quest. This is what the film is all about - a quest, a soul-search, an exploration of love, and loss. Kaisa is beautifully portrayed by adorable little Keitumetse Matlabo, and she compliments the intensity of Gijs Scholten van Aschat who plays Jörgen with her soothing presence. Her oft-spoken line in impeccable grammar school English, "Would you like some company, Sir" even now wrings quite disturbingly.

It is however a very well made film in all respects. The direction and editing see to it that we get to experience Jörgen's disorientation in full measure. The cinematography is masterful and yet quite subtle. The sound track is haunting. All in all, this is a surprisingly powerful film that one might not forget in a hurry, even if desired - you heard it, this is not for everyone's taste. But if you like to be challenged, and forced to look at things you'd much rather not, this is Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon Blu-ray Link
(not the one I have, but one with the best deal going for the moment)

Johanna ter Steege, Abbey Hoes, Sylvia Hoeks, and Titia Hoogendoorn

Johanna ter Steege, Abbey Hoes, Sylvia Hoeks, and Titia Hoogendoorn in Tirza

Scene Guide:
  • Jörgen's ex-wife Alma is portrayed at the beginning as a domineering bitch - she drops by his home now and again to enquire about their daughters Ibi and Tirza. In this scene, when Jörgen proclaims to have conquered his desire for women, she tries to disprove him. Alma is portrayed by Johanna ter Steege - a fine actress still looking great at fifty.
  • Further humiliation for Jörgen - this time from his own kid - a flashback of him catching oldest daughter Ibi - still in her teens, knickers down with their forty-something tenant. He drags her home but the rebellious brat wants to go back to her lover's flat - apparently to pick up her panties! Ibi is played by a sixteen year old Abbey Hoes. Phew..!
  • No nudity - Tirza, the youngest daughter is also Jörgen's favourite. She wants to prove her dad that she's now a young woman. But he tells her she will always be his little girl. Tirza is played by Sylvia Hoeks, much older than the character she plays.
  • Flashback again - Jörgen with ex-wife Alma - cue for more humiliation. Alma walks off during the middle of their session complaining that he doesn't turn her on, and that she finds his grunts annoying. But it appears the abhorrence is mutual - fine couple this..!
  • Tirza catches her dad with weird classmate Ester at a party. Ester is shown more or less encouraging Jörgen by letting him know what she's up to - 'caressing' herself alone in the shed. Played by Titia Hoogendoorn.


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