Sunday, 3 April 2016

Mucking about in the marshes: Schneider vs. Bax [2015, Netherlands]

Alex van Warmerdam showcases his unique style once again in the comedy thriller, "Schneider vs. Bax". He remains among the select few who continue to write, direct, and star in their own films, with his family members also involved in the production.

Loes Haverkort in "Schneider vs. Bax" (2015) Tom Dewispelaere in "Schneider vs. Bax" (2015)
Maria Kraakman and Alex van Warmerdam in "Schneider vs. Bax" [2015] Annet Malherbe and Tom Dewispelaere in "Schneider vs. Bax" [2015]

We're introduced to Schneider (a brilliant Tom Dewispelaere) as an entrenched family man, after his beaming wife and adoring kids wake him up in the morning to wish happy birthday. It's his day off, but is inexplicably summoned to 'office' for an urgent task. He rushes to work, promising wife Lucy (Loes Haverkort) that he'd be back before lunch to help with the cooking.

A loving family, and a dutiful husband - but unlike his family, we'll discover that Schneider is in fact a professional hit man. He is asked - more like begged, by boss Mertens (Gene Bervoets) to kill a man named Ramon Bax. It takes plenty of persuasion for Schneider to finally agree to take the task.

Meanwhile Bax (Alex van Warmerdam), a hit man himself, and a pill-popping old fox who was about to hang up his boots to become a writer,  is reminded that he too had a task for the day - he'll have to kill a man named Schneider when he comes visiting at his cottage in the polders. When he wakes up to the fact that his depressive daughter Francisca (Maria Kraakman) will also be dropping by, he tries to move the Schneider task to the following week, but his boss will have none of it.

For Schneider, what should have been a straightforward job before a family get-together, becomes complicated when Gina (Annet Malherbe) runs into him at his hideout, after being pursued by a murderous pimp. He rescues her, but now had to figure out what to do with the unwanted witness. A series of unexpected twists will only delay but not avoid the protagonists' eventual guns-blazing final showdown...

The screenplay deliberately avoids feeding audience with facts and motives, which makes sense because at the end, it doesn't really matter who is the better person among the two. What we do learn is that, despite their gruesome professions, these guys love and care for their family in their own way, and pursue what they see as right. This is also a comedy, even though we are not necessarily treated to clever jokes and slapstick moments. It's the little details around the narrative that make the film outrageous and sometimes darkly funny - it builds layers of cliché only to dismantle them in one stroke.

It's because of this that the film is engaging, despite its modest storyline and minimal cast. The locations, particularly the desolate but luscious marshland in the northern province of Groningen, form a splendid backdrop to the dark, and at times absurd events unfolding in front of us. The dialogues carry a dead pan humour and the cast get their timing just about right. It had always been a pleasant surprise watching van Warmerdam films, and this one is no exception. Highly Recommended Viewing..! DVD Link [PAL]


The Nudity: Eva van de Wijdeven and Maria Kraakman
The first instance of nudity is when Bax hurries girlfriend Nadine (Eva van de Wijdeven) into leaving because he doesn't want her in the house when his daughter arrives. The second is of Maria Kraakman, which I won't explain because it could be a spoiler.

Eva van de Wijdeven and Maria Kraakman from the comedy thriller "Schneider vs. Bax" [2015]


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