In The Deflowering of Eva Van End, Horn explores a family in transition who are faced with some uncomfortable changes as they are helping to host a foreign-exchange student from Germany (named Veit) who has moved in with their family. It's a story of family and it explores the family of this bizarre story through a sequence of odd events that lead to the transformative conclusion. The story begins with Eva (Vivian Dierickx) at a table with her family. They are all around her yet not one of them seems to really recognize or acknowledge her. She is a 15 year old girl who lacks the ability to speak up for herself and who others take for granted. The film establishes a journey with this character that guides the audience through the rest of the oddball characters of The Deflowering of Eva Van End.
Over the course of the story, Eva is able to transform herself and she recognizes some things (good and bad) that she hadn't before (and all the while without saying hardly anything at all). The rest of the family contributes to the dysfunctional nature of them all. The parents are also often preoccupied with working and are within their own worlds so they don't tend to pay that much attention to children Eva, Erwin, and Manuel. It's a family of 'E's (except the one son) as the parents are named Evert and Etty. No one seems to understand each other as well as they could. The family is not nearly as close as the "E" names would seem to initially suggest.
Throughout the film the new character to their household, Veit (Rafael Gareisen) causes some dramatic commotion as a number of the family's doubts and personal troubles are brought to light within themselves. One of the sons in the family is engaged but is actually homosexual, another is dealing with the fact that his one major strength is at winning an eating contest each year (plus the fact that he is usually smoking-dope), and the daughter Eva is usually ignored by those at school and at home - except when she is being bullied or teased - and must deal with a number of self-doubt and body-image issues that she seems to struggle with on a daily basis. The parents deal with their own issues too as Etty confronts stresses in trying to raise her children while finding time for personal peace while Evert tries to figure out his calling when he learns about how he could help a poor African child that Veit speaks to through web-chat: a process that leads the father to take out the family's entire savings to try and help establish a business with the young boy so that he can do something that might help him out of his poverty.
Out of every aspect of the film's production, the thing that stood out the most to me as being something impressive and noteworthy was the filmmaking by director Michiel Ten Horn. It certainly felt like a film from a relative newcomer to the world of directing but it was an entirely well-realized effort from a visual standpoint, with a solid grasp of visual storytelling apparent by the director. The screenplay was written by Anne Barnhoorn based on concepts established from herself and the director, and while it is well-written in the sense that everything flows well and connects in the film's final moments, I thought that the attempts towards humor in the script were mostly unsuccessful (which isn't helpful for a film that is supposed to be a comedy, dark or not).
The performances by the cast were quite good, and I thought everyone did a solid job at creating a feeling of being a part of an actual family. This is also a complement to the directing. There are moments where I felt like this could have been a much better film with a slightly revised script or had some additional work been done with regards to the origins of the idea.
I thought the characters were not too likeable in characterization (aside from, perhaps, Etty... who does a good thing by trying to help out the poor African kid but he also messes with his family by taking out their entire savings) but they were believably portrayed even with some of the outlandishness fundamentally inherent in this effort. The character most perplexing was perhaps Veit. In bringing out these different elements of the characters it often felt like it was done with an intentional purpose by Veit. Yet the character is so odd and is never explained to the audience in a way that makes sense. Something feels alien about this 'stranger' to the storyline. At times it felt more like Veit was simply a storytelling concept projecting and propelling the story forward rather than an actual character within the film.
The cinematography by Jasper Wolf impressed me. This was a very well filmed movie in terms of the lighting and the unusually drab color palette. The overall impression of the film was certainly helped by authentic and artistic photography. It is never too bright or overly-cheerful. Instead, it offers up quirkiness with a dark palette that seems appropriate for the material.
In exploring these characters, I found that The Deflowering of Eva Van End was an ambitious project for filmmakers who are still clearly newcomers to making movies. The script has some good ideas and is convincing at portraying a family even if it's humor isn't so good. The directing was solid and shows promise for future films by Michiel Ten Horn. The performances felt genuine. I didn't wholly appreciate the end result and even at less than two hours the film is something that feels a bit overlong. Nonetheless, there are some interesting elements to this odd character study and it is worth checking out.
Michiel Ten Horn's The Deflowering of Eva Van End is well photographed by cinematographer Jasper Wolf and the photography is well-preserved with the Film Movement DVD release as it preserves the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and with anamorphic widescreen enhancement. The colors aren't that vibrant but the look of the film does match the storytelling approach rather effectively.
The original language track is preserved and the film is presented in Dutch with English subtitles. Dialogue is well-reproduced on the release and sometimes music is utilized for the film to be a more robust experience from a sound-design standpoint. The film is presented with both stereo and basic 5.1 surround sound options.
This Film Movement release expands the typical offering of one monthly short film to include two different shorts. Both short films are from director Michiel Ten Horn. Basta is his second short film (the first one on this release) and I couldn't stand it. I wasn't so sure what was even happening for most of the brief runtime. It felt like the work of a director trying to imitate the filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) while telling a" whimsical" story without any dialogue and the effort failed miserably at understanding why Jeunet's films are successful. It was not a successful effort as far as I am concerned.
The second short film included on this release is Arie, which Horn directed two years after the previous short. I found it to be an emotional and captivating short film about old age, friendship, and compassion.
The story centers upon Mr. Manders (Aart Staartjes), who lives in a retirement home with his friend Arie: a bird. The loss of the bird's life leads Mr. Manders into a surprising evening with events that lead to a new friendship. Unlike the first short film on this set, this is actually a coherent, emotional, and effective piece of filmmaking. It also feels genuine and it works as something original. It also doesn't feel like an attempt to copy from another director. Surprisingly, Arie demonstrated that Horn had improved his skills as a filmmaker dramatically.
The release also contains filmmaker bios, trailers for other Film Movement releases, comments from the director, and a note about why The Deflowering of Eva Van End was selected by Film Movement.
Michiel Ten Horn does a solid job as the director of The Deflowering of Eva Van End. The film manages to feel unique and noteworthy without managing to be as entertaining, enjoyable, or as successful as one would hope to find. It's biggest issue as a film is that it isn't really successful with being funny for something that is supposed to be a dark comedy. It works more purely as something that is a character study. The film is at least worth renting, though.
The DVD release by Film Movement is worth consideration for the surprisingly effective short film Arie (from director Michiel Ten Horn), which I considered the highlight of the release. It was a short film that delighted and enchanted me and I imagine others will find it to be a well done exercise in short-narrative filmmaking.