Sunday, January 30, 2011


Whenever I find myself in the darkness of a theatre performance or film screening, it always strikes me again: all those different scents around me. The man in front of me, who is wearing a delicious aftershave, the hideous perfume of the woman behind me. Sometimes, it's just a little whiff, that quickly passes your nose and never will return. Other times, it's there, whenever you move or get to close to them. Unfortunately, they're not always pleasant scents. Sometimes, it someones sweat, because he or she had to cycle hard to make it in time, or it's a fragrance that doesn't fit the person.

However, my conclusion is that all those scents will determine your perception of the show. Every time I smell something, my thought wander from the performance and I start wondering if I would experience it differently if the scent would be better or worse. And how would it be? Would I like the performance better? Or worse? Would it make me laugh less loud, so I wouldn't bend forward because I'd want to avoid the scent of that person in front of me?

The next thought that always follows is that I really would like to try it. I would love to make a scent performance, in which the audience get different scents while watching something. Afterwards they'd have to see it again with different scents, to see if there's a difference. I know what you're going to say, I'll say it for you: the experiment stops here. Because you cannot see a performance a second time with the perception of the first time anyway.

And so, my thoughts are brutally stopped, because it's impossible to figure this out. Still, my scent experiment always makes me happy. I realize that there is this extra experience in everything you do, that others might not be aware of, but that, in my opinion, definitely adds to the experience! Try to think of it, next time you're in a dark theatre venue. And don't run to the theatre in a hurry, be considerate to others..

Saturday, January 22, 2011


In 2000, I volunteered at a special project of the Holland Festival, called Zingaro. It's the name of a company that is lead by a little but very scary guy called Bartabas, who made a theatre performance with horses. They were playing in Amsterdam in March, while the festival is in June but the Holland Festival invited them to play at the Westergasfabriek, which was an underdeveloped part of Amsterdam.

The Gashouder, one of the mail locations, was build like a circus, with sand and cuttings on the floor. Outside they constructed the stables for the horses, the dancers would do their warming up around them. When Bartabas was walking around, as one of the volunteers, you tried to make yourself invisible, so he wouldn't see you and therefor couldn't yell at you. I vaguely remember being in his way by accident and being growled at to move out of his way. he really was scary.

When the audience had taken its seat on the wooden benches and the buzzling sounds slowly silenced, you could softly hear the beginning of the bassoon. A small spotlight appeared int the middle of the arena. A dancer moved. Other instruments were added to the bassoon. More dancers appeared out of the darkness. The music got louder and the dancers left their traces in the sand. And then, when the strings were plucking, suddenly, there were the horses with their amazons. The dancers seemed to defend themselves against the horses that surrounded them. The choreographies mixed. Then, the horses took over the dance.
Everyone who knows Le Sacre du Printemps by Stravinsky, knows about the intensity of the piece, let alone when it's combined with a dance between men and horses.

Several week later, by a twist of fate, I received two tickets to a performance of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, who played the same piece of Stravinsky, cunducted by no other than Piere Boulez. When the bassoon started, I smelled the sand and the horses and with every part, in my mind I saw the dance between men and horses.

In the Zingaro performance, after Le Sacre, they performed the Symphony of Psalms, also by Stravinsky. I'm always remembered of the atonal sounds of that piece when I'm rehearsing with my choir, where we are momentarily rehearsing his Mass. you have to like modern classical music, but if you do, it can move you to tears. Even while rehearsing it over and over again. And once in a while, in that airless rehearsal room, I can smell the scent of sand and cuttings, and hear the sounds of the horses from a disctance.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


It can be frightening to see how some people are trapped together. Often, they have a -now bad - relationship, where one wants to go and the other one is afraid to be left alone. Or friendships that have nearly died but are still sort of breathing their last breaths. in both cases, the special commitment can be broken, even if it will be hard and painful. It's more difficult though if you're talking about family. Real family, brothers and sisters. They are there for a life time. An invisible bond that connects you to people you might not had chosen yourself to be connected to.
What if that bonds is not only with one of your siblings, but with your twin? The documentary L.A.Raeven, de verbeelding voorbij, beyond the image, shows that dilemma. Not only their fascinating and sometimes even freaky art is being shown, it's more about the smothering and tight bond between the sisters Liesbeth and Angelique Raeven.

The film maker uses a lot of close ups, to literally zoom in on them, to be on their skin. Like they do to each other. They did everything together: being born, growing up, become anorexic, making art. And now one wants to leave, and the other one doesn't want to be left alone.

I noticed how they always say each others name, even when they are alone (though with camera crew) in their home (yes, they live together too). It seems like mentioning the other ones name confirms their own identity. You are Liesbeth, I am Angelique. Their chosen imprisonment doesn't give them any space for love, tenderness, intimacy. Not for each other at least. The only physical contact between them are the three kisses on the cheek when Liesbeth goes on a trip with her new boyfriend. Otherwise, they are always separate, apart from each other. It's like they want to turn away from the other, while it's so obvious that they belong together. Even in the home movies that were made when they were only babies, you can see some of the agitation, the friction that now is there all the time.

I had to stop myself from calling: Run girls! Run! Run into this great world and meet other people! And please, smile!

The film premiered at the IDFA, but can now be seen in a shorter version on Holland Doc.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


The first steps of a wannabe film maker in the world of film are, like all first steps, pretty scary. You've seen some films, you have an idea of what you'd like to make, but you have no idea where to begin. You can take a big step to a film school, which at least will mean that afterwards, people will take you seriously. But if you lack both time and money for that, you need to think of other ways to start your new career. You can do courses, that teach you how to use a camera, how to hold a microphone and how to edit. But in the end, the moment will come when you just need to start filming.

That's the moment where you have to start making choices. It takes time to make a film, even a little one. Luckily, you can enter as many film competitions as you want, for which you can practice all the things you've learned, for that one big goal: your Own FIlm. What's good about those competitions is that they set some rules, that are mostly restrictive, that simplify the process.
I'm trying to translate a film into a new version of just sixty seconds: Done In Sixty Seconds. For me, it is a perfect concept to try fiction for once. Because it's taking us a lot of time already, for just sixty seconds, and we haven't even shot a single scene.
I love it though, to chose scenes together, to brainstorm about locations, actors and camera angles. If I could only do this every day! In the end, of course, it comes down to a lot of emailing to people and places that we had in mind, so again, I'm producing. But next sunday, everything we've arranged will come together so we can film our version of The Social Network.

In our search for good films to remake (in sixty seconds of course), I found some websites that are probably already very known by everyone, but are still worth mentioning. Apart from DISS - see the internationale site for the better films - there is a site where well known films are being reenacted in thirty seconds. By bunnies.

And How it should have ended shows different possible endings of films that, according to the makers here, ended in a bad way. Of course, my personal favorite here is The Social Network.

My previous competition where I participated with a friend of mine, was Nachtshots, that took place during the Museum night in Amsterdam. We tried to film all the museums that were involved in that night, and cycled the city of Amsterdam three times in two days, filmed the sign of the hidden church museum Ons Lieve Heer op Solder in the red light district, in the middle of the night, and took it hours to edit everything on the right beat. We didn't win, but we made a lovely little film!

So, be inspired, use every chance you get to film and enjoy the process!

Monday, January 17, 2011


My parents used to take me and my little brother to art exhibitions when we were small. I vaguely remember all the hours I spend, dragging myself from one room to the other, being more fascinated by the people that dragged along than by the art on the wall. I preferred the sculptures outside in someones garden in summer, where I could play wit little bugs that crossed the line between nature and art and walked on sculptures like they were part of it. Once, i was so tired I sat down on a chair in a museum, only to finf a guard coming towards me with great panic in his eyes - in a sort of ice skating way, since you can't run in a museum - because apparently, that chair was part of the exhibition. How could I know that?

Once I started traveling, I discovered the deep impact of this part of my education. I felt the need to visit each museum I found on my way, even if I didn't really want to visit it. After years of therapy and group talks, I finally reached the point that I don't visit museums anymore if I don't want to. Because of that, I have only visit the Moma in New York, even after visiting this great city for four times. I approached the entrance of the Metropolitan three times, but once they were closed, once the sun was shining so hard that Central Park seemed more appropriate to visit and once I just wanted to buy a pretzel from the vendor who accidentally stood on that corner.

Once in a while, I do like to visit art - or supposed to be art - together with other art lovers. Last Saturday, I visited the REALisme fair, where I was surprised to find a lot of non-realistic art as well. Without bending forward to read name tags and descriptions of the art work, I tried to be touched by what I saw. In most cases, nothing much happened. I don't like eyes that could blink any moment, and landscapes don't do it for me.
But then, I found this painting. I saw it from far away and was pulled into it as I approached. One of the friends that joined me looked with surprise when I told him that THIS was what I liked. 'Sometimes, you totally lose me and I don;t understand you at all,' he said. I just felt happy. you only have to see one moving painting to have a great afternoon, and this came at the moment that I almost lost my hope.
On one hand, I was disappointed to find out it was made by Armando and it cost twelve thousand euro - I would love to buy it - but on the other hand, I was happy to know that I could still see what is really good, or what is decided to be good by other art lovers.

Decide for yourself:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Norwegian Wood

It rains in japan. And if it doesn't, it snows. Or the wind blows. Hard. And a lot of people aren't really happy in Japan. At least, not those in Norwegian Wood, the film after Haruki Murakamis book.
The world that is shown, of Japan in the seventies, is not a nice one. Especially the world of two teens, Watanabe and Naoko, who are mourning for the loss of their friend, is extreme and crude. Slowly, they lose themselves, in each other, in themselves and in the world that they are trying to maintain.

But the images that show their world are beautiful close ups that suck you into the story. Director Tran Anh Hung managed to visualize feelings. He takes you along for a two hour trip through beautiful Japanese landscapes, to Japanese houses and to the seventies that are there in every detail.
I would recommend this film, if only for its visuals that make you forget about the two hours the film lasts for. I don't know if it's a good impression of the book, but the film tells a sad, nostalgic and lonely story. Perfect for this time of the year, I'd say, especially because you'll leave the venue with a spark of hope. And, in my case, the intention to finally start reading the work of Murakami.

And just because it's a really nice song, and the title of the film:

Monday, January 3, 2011


The nausea that comes along with Christmas and New Years, and especially the days in between, slowly has disappeared. I finally can think about food again without needing to lie down. You'd think we're done for a while now. Let's focus on crackers and tea and forget about chocolate and others sweets. Only, I love to use these days to watch documentaries on Holland Doc, where so many delicious stories are stored away, waiting to be seen.

High on my list of films was Kings of Pastry, made by D.A.Pennebaker, who also made teriific films like Primary and The War Room. (If you haven't seen them: rent them, buy them, download them!). In Kings of Pastry, he follows several pastry chefs that are getting prepared to enter the most important contest in their field: the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (MOF).

It's a lovely film, with great editing, in which pastry and the love for ones business are shown in many different ways. The makers got a blessing in disguise when a dramatic incident happened, that only helps the story even more. All I can say is blown sugar, handicraft and pressure.

Fot those who can think about food: watch the film! For everyone else: wait several week, and then see it!


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dark days

There are people that look forward to Christmas and New Years Eve for months. In August, they take a cookbook and sit down in the sun to contemplate about Christmas dinner. Half way through October, their presents are packed and hidden away in their closets, and they bought their new outfit in last years sale so they are dying to show off their new clothes in the restaurant around the corner, where the rest of the neighborhood also made reservations. They exist. People who rub their hands and genuinely smile when they say they're looking forward for winter and shorter days.

Then, there are people who don't look forward to all of this. Those who get nervous by the thought of December. The ones who run through supermarkets on the twenty fourth of December, with red spots in their face and neck, who hope that they will make it in time to buy all the presents they need in the two hours that are remaining, and also have time to get some food for dinner in the same time. Those are people who are stressed when they enter a restaurant because they don't want to sit next to certain family members. People that can't wait for January to start, so they finally can start with their new resolutions.

And then there is a third group. Those are the ones that don't function very well in these days of the year. They cannot run, nor can they be prepared for everything. Because it's all too much of an effort. I think I belong to this group. I buy my presents just in time and am lucky that others think about my food for Christmas dinner. I don't have any family members that I realy need to avoid. So in the end, I just let it all happen to me.

The best way to get through these days for my group is to hide. As soon as I am not expected to attend a party anymore, I go in retreat. At home, or in movie theatres, where I lose myself in other peoples stories. First, I sleep in until unacceptable times, just because it's possible, then, I mess about with the curtains still closed. Only when dusk settles in, I dare to go outside, but only if I can be tucked away under a cap or hat, so I can keep all the extra light out. I only feel safe again in the dark venue of the theatre, where the light of the projection brings distraction and entertainment.

For everyone wh knows exactly what I'm talking about, and for those who just like the cinema as much as Christmas, I have some tips: Go see Potiche, if you like French comedy with Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve. But don't expect a normal French film! Another Year is also a lovely film, by Mike Leigh, where perfect happiness is complemented with the misery of others. A heartbreaking film that is also beautiful and full of love. For good old fashion American entertainment, about an almost very normal American family, go to The Kids Are All Right. Because this family isn't as normal as you'd think, and all prejudices are both confirmed and denied.

Another tip: let yourself go! Laugh if you want to! It doesn't matter if it's because of recognition or because of surprise. Or pity or self-pity. Don't hold back because of the other people in the venue. I have had the best time ever with complete strangers, over the last few days. Isn't that what the holidays are all about: being together?


Another Year

The Kids Are All Right