QUICK AND DIRTY: LIVE FROM TALLINN
Daantje (Bram Reurink) is a quiet and introspective child in a sleepy town somewhere in the Netherlands. at some point in the middle of the 20th century. He never utters a word, and he does not even express pain upon being hit on the face. His father is equally withdrawn, to the point of wearing earphones during sex. His grandfather is convinced that he’s sick, but his dippy and careless mother (Hadewych Minis) is not overly concerned. The family eventually take him to the doctor, only for the mysterious boy to finally open his mouth. He says his name and also confirms that he lives “here”. The mother suspects that Daantje is playing tricks on them. His father nearly dies in a freak accident, and his mother eventually abandons the little boy in an institution so that she can concentrate on her relation with a middle-aged man donning a wig from hell. Then tragedy strikes.
Fast forward about two decades. Daantje is now a man in his late 20s. His large eyes are sad and expressive, yet his mouth remains as inactive as ever. It takes former Russian ballerina Natasha (Anastasia Weinmar) some effort to get him to talk. He says his name, which she mistakes for “Daneels”. This becomes his official moniker from now on. He repeats several sentences in Russian without stumbling, including “You are the most beautiful woman and I love you”. For some inexplicable reason, our protagonist is more comfortable in the Slavonic than in his very own mother language (Dutch). Natasha and Daneels bond for some equally baffling and unexplainable reason, and they head towards Natasha’s native Russia in the hope to reunite with her grandmother, who lives in a dacha in a remote rural area, and who our female protagonist hasn’t seen in several decades. This is where they will encounter some of the most eccentric characters: lonely, loving and also potentially dangerous people of all sorts. Each one of them likeable in a strange way.
This is a heartwarming little tale of friendship and complicity through silence. While Daneels barely utters a word, he communicates exceedingly well with his firm gaze and expressive face. At times, he feels like a child imprisoned in the body of as man, and longing to come out. Other times, he comes across as a grown up too scared to say it as it is, and instead withdraws inside inside. Natasha does speak, but it is through dancing that she conveys the most powerful sentiments. She was a ballerina a long time ago, but she still has the moves. She shares those with her cherished friend in one of the film’s most beautiful and intimate scenes.
Jos Stelling is a 78-year-old Dutch director, who has been making films for five decades, and he has signalled that this could be his last creation. His potential swan song is a quirky, ingenious, black-and-white art film with a gentle touch of deadpan and Wes Anderson (minus the repetitive idiosyncrasies). A film dotted dotted with cryptic symbolisms from beginning to end: a girl watching the fast-shifting clouds, a chair on the table, a fake stabbing, etc. This is one of those precious gems that need to be watched with an open heart, an open mind, and – of course – your eyes wide open.
Natasha’s Dance just premiered in the Official Selection of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.