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A frustrated actor has more secrets in store than anyone could have anticipated, in this very bizarre and bewitching Dutch-Belgian production - from the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival


Günter (Tom Dewispelaere) is a middle-aged actor rehearsing a play with a small group of thespians. He repeats his lines over and over, while one of his peers can barely remember the two words he has to say. Günter becomes profoundly frustrated, and so does the director Marius (Pierre Bokma), who decides to rearrange the entire cast. To make things worse, Günter is having an affair with Marius’s wife Isabel (Anniek Feipher). The entire atmosphere is fraught with anger, anxiety, resentment and even hate.

Our protagonist has an adult daughter called Lizzie (Frieda Barnhard), who has just found out that she only has one lung. She requests that her father takes an x-ray in order to find out whether he too suffers from the extremely rare condition. He refuses, arguing that no one can force him to undergo a medical procedure against the will. Lizzie has no mother. Something smells fishy. This small household has a very dark secret that hitherto neither father nor daughter are aware.

A German clergyman called Wassinski (Dirk Böhlin) has some inexplicable sway over the small theatre troupe, and also over the relationship between Günter and his daughter. He is part of a very mysterious group. He sends coded messages to Günter in a language the man can neither understand nor recognise. All is very creepy and otherworldly. Wassinski has a vast collection of Catholic iconography and paintings, including what looks like an original Caravaggio. These strange signifiers are slowly pierced together as the theatrical narrative very unexpectedly mutates into absurdist science fiction.

We eventually learn that Günter was found in a forest aged just four in a group of 12 children of unknown origin. The film title might refer to his number amongst the foundlings, or perhaps to the fact that this is the 10th movie by the 69-year-old Dutch filmmaker Alex van Warmerdam.

This highly inventive movie is a very difficult one to describe in detail, and interpreting its complex and multilayered symbols and references can be counterproductive and also frustrating for those avoiding spoilers. The narrative is more or less the shape of the Nile, flowing quickly and unpredictably in just about every direction, leaving behind numerous streams along its journey. Don’t try to make sense of everything. Just sit back and enjoy the barely plausible twists and turns. Open up your mind; after all there are more things between heaven and Earth. And be prepared for a very big surprise coming from the underground beneath the Dutch forest.

Nr 10 has just premiered in Competition at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.

By Victor Fraga - 17-11-2021

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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