Only occasionally do I write about Dutch pop culture. Partly because, although I do enjoy it quite regularly, I often feel it does not fit in with my regular content and partly because I see no use in writing about movies and music that is hardly available to a worldwide audience. For Dutch film De Surprise however, I happily make an exception. It is by far the best Dutch film I have seen in years. A bizarro love story that is funny, witty and above all heartwarming. Unique not just in Dutch cinema, but everywhere around the world.
De Surprise (or simply The Surprise in English) centers around Jacob van Zuylen de With, an eccentric real life aristocrat, rich beyond imagination, who seemingly has it all. The film starts at his mother's death bed. Jacob shows no emotion whatsoever. After the funeral, Jacob seems to be donating his entire fortune to charity, still not showing a single sign of grief. When he gets home and clumsily tries to commit suicide as blank faced as ever, we eventually get to see another side. Is he depressed? While Jacob sees an old man supposedly being helped to end his life, he gets in touch with Elysium, a very discrete, but illegal company, that professionally helps people to their end. It is there, while selecting his own coffin, where he meets fellow traveller Anne. She turns out to be the one person who makes him doubt his decision, when there is no turning back.
Back in 1997, writer and director of De Surprise Mike Diem, won an Oscar for best foreign language film with his 'Character'. If it were up to me, he is in full contention again now with this one, only his second feature length film. I admire how De Surprise is both light and heavy, simple and complex and although unique in many ways, weirdly instantly relatable as well. The story, as well as storytelling are absolutely brilliant.
Jacob and Anne are portrayed by Jeroen van Koningsbrugge and Georgina Verbaan. Both very well-known here in the Netherlands and widely regarded funny and charming. Both are very good in their respective roles. Jeroen stands out for he shows a side of him the public doesn't regularly see, whereas Georgina does what she does best; making you fall in love with her again and again. Their chemistry is obvious and elevates the story to this superb level.
As of now it is unclear whether or not the film will be released abroad as well. I certainly do hope so, since I believe it is really quite universal. Even though I guess a lot of people will take offence at the way a subject like life-ending is told about here. In the end I feel this film is more about finding something or someone to live for, rather than purely life-ending anyway. I left the cinema warm-hearted at least.