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The Northerners Review

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Set in a Dutch housing estate in the 1960s, this tells the strange stories of its inhabitants from the perspective of Thomas, the 12-year-old son of the local butcher. Affected by the fact that his virile father and deeply religious mother have arguments over their sex life, he starts to dress up as is newfound hero, resistance leader in the Belgian Congo Patrice Lumumba.

★★★★★

A somewhat tiresome piece of mannered eccentricity from the Netherlands, this is full of jokes which are more likely to raise confusion than a giggle. Set in 1960, it centres on an abandoned single street built in a cleared area of woodland as part of a new town development. Surrounded by forgotten building sites and a fairytale forest, the locals go through their frustrating rounds: The belly-bouncing butcher (Wouterse) going mad because his religious wife won't allow him his conjugal rights; the bespectacled forest ranger (Rudolf Lucieer) going mad because he's sterile and doesn't feel like servicing his somewhat playful wife.

The butcher's son (Leonard Lucieer), meanwhile, dresses up as his hero, Congolese freedom fighter Patrice Lumumba, and hangs out with the cheeky postman (director Warmerdam), whose idea of a good time is steaming open all the letters and slobbering over his neighbours' personal problems.

With a monotonous emphasis on sex scenes that never get going, and plenty of weirdness — like the living statue of St. Francis of Assisi that drives the butcher's wife to a hunger strike, and an escaped African who wanders around the forest — this makes few concessions to normality. Essentially, this is rather a nasty little movie — a puzzling choice for Young European Film of the Year at the 1992 Felix awards — which goes out of its way to make its characters unpleasant to look at and never really explains why we should be interested in them.

This is an unpleasant black comedy and its director, like the character he plays, views his cast as wriggling specimens rather than feeling people. And the director, like the character he plays, views his cast as wriggling specimens rather than feeling people.