Saturday, 17 November 2012

Nellie Benner in "Vlees" [2010 Netherlands]

From what I've seen so far, films by Victor Nieuwenhuijs and Maartje Seyferth are largely hit-and-miss, and experimental. Their more recent film however, the suggestively titled "Vlees" [Eng. Title: Meat] makes a sincere attempt to work with a structured screenplay, and sets up a very original drama if one can care to pay close attention to it.

Made up of two halves and told in parallel narrative, we follow two middle-aged characters - a butcher, and a police detective, with strikingly similar features (played by the same actor Titus Muizelaar). While the detective wants to end his relationship with girlfriend Sonja, the married butcher is seen trying to seduce nubile shop assistant Roxy, while his wife Tinie, also an employee, openly has sexual relations with the shop's owner - both the protagonists are going through a crisis of some sort. The butcher is found dead one morning, and the suspicion falls on Roxy, who was the last one seen with him the night before - yes, the butcher succeeds in his seduction efforts in one of the memorable scenes of the film. Roxy's case isn't helped by the fact that she and her erstwhile boyfriend are also part of a militant group against the killing of animals. And she has a habit of capturing things on her video camera, like prying on the butcher.

What starts off as a murder mystery turns into a psychological drama about revenge, guilt, and redemption. To be honest, it required more than a viewing for me to make sense of the numerous seemingly pointless scenes and plot devices. This is partly because some of the scenes are purely imagined, portraying a character's frame of mind, and not all of them use conventional cinematic language to separate reality from fantasy. I won't bother analysing them here, but it will help if you consider certain facts. The butcher's state of mind - his passive reaction in seeing his wife routinely taken upstairs for sex by their boss. And for all the promise of giving Roxy the orgasm of her life, the sex that the butcher ends up having with her is hurried, unimaginative, and totally selfish. Why does the detective cut his hair to make himself look like the dead butcher. What does Roxy see in the butcher that keeps her approaching him despite his tasteless remarks. Her relationship with her Turkish boyfriend appears one-sided. She willingly accompanies boys at the night club in almost total abandon. She also doesn't seem to care too much about her alleged beliefs vis-à-vis animal cruelty, eating a live bug as breakfast in one scene. And not least the detective who is told that he's been taken off the case and investigated for manslaughter.

To summarise, there's a lot going on in the film that paints a more complex picture than a sordid murder mystery or a study in sexual depravity. It may contain several unpleasant scenes like urination, rape, and close-ups of raw meat and naked human flesh, but it is a surprisingly original story that can be interpreted in different ways. The performances by the main cast are very good, particularly Titus Muizelaar who plays both the butcher and the detective. And the incredibly beautiful Nellie Benner as the passive, sensual, and wanton Roxy makes her altogether vulnerable character disturbingly erotic. With competent cinematography, writing, and editing, this film is well produced, and a very worthy exercise on the whole - Recommended Viewing..! DVD Link
English Subtitle


The Nudity:
As the title would suggest, the film features intermittent scenes of nudity, acts of sex, and sexual fetish throughout. Mercifully, it is made bearable by the extremely easy on the eye Nellie Benners, who plays the character of Roxy. Titus Muizelaar as the butcher/detective also appears in the nude - quite bold of him to do so, and there is some brief nudity from Wilma Bakker who plays the butcher's wife Tinie.

Wilma Bakker and Nellie Benner in Vlees aka Meat

Scene Guide:
  • Husband and wife intimacy during work - the butcher is invited into the meat vault by wife Tinie, which is watched and filmed by shop assistant Roxy. The butcher is played by Titus Muizelaar, and Tinie by Wilma Bakker.
  • No nudity - but a very interesting scene - of the butcher 'seducing' Roxy in the coarsest manner imaginable (if you really need to know, much of the talk is about his skill in getting little girls wet), but rather than avoiding him, she keeps getting in his way, almost wanting to hear his unromantic words - theirs is a different relationship for sure. Roxy is played by the gorgeous Nellie Benner. She appears more mature and sensual here than her earlier outing with the same directors in Crepuscule, I have the DVD for that film as well, and will write about it on another occasion.
  • After a party, Roxy follows the butcher into the showers, and we're witness to some grotesque, non-erotic sex between the two. This is followed by Roxy urinating on the butcher while filming him. It doesn't appear as though he expected her to do that, but he takes the second shower with passivity regardless..! :)
  • After this encounter, Roxy heads to a night club where she's predictably approached by a group of guys who take her on a car ride. Disturbingly, these scenes of groping must be the most titillating in the entire film - partly because we see Roxy more or less enjoying all the attention. She is braless and knickerless, and doesn't seem too eager to protect her modesty either.
  • It culminates in an 'ambiguous' rape scene after the guys pin Roxy to the ground and spread her legs.
  • A brief scene of Roxy in the bath...
  • Roxy filming her sleeping boyfriend. He wakes up and proceeds to have rough sex with her after some tender words. When she later asks him if he loves her, he doesn't respond. The scene is truncated as I found some parts unnecessary.
  • The detective (with a new haircut, but very little else) lies on top of the crime scene markings to slash himself while Roxy watches. I won't give away too much information - merely pointing out that this an imagined scene.

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