It’s All So Quiet is the last film of the Dutch actor Jeroen Willems before he suddenly died in December 2012. Willems was a fine and subtly actor who had the ability to summon a whole inner world with a flicker in his eyes. In his last major film role, Willems, shines as a taciturn and private farmer struggling with inner turmoil.
It’s All So Quiet comes from the hand of the terrific director Nanouk Leopold (Guernsey). It’s a first for Leopold to direct a movie not only based on a novel but the protagonist is male – her previous work is focused on women. This change in direction is a nice surprise. Her screenplay is adapted from the best-selling debut novel by Gerbrand Bakker (in English it was published as The Twin). It’s All So Quiet is a slow drama that portrays an array of conflicting emotions of the protagonist: solitude, aging and homosexual repression.
The film focuses on the middle aged farmer Helmer (Willems). Helmer is trapped in a life he feels that is not really his. The small, desolate dairy farm which he governs and the care of his elderly, widowed father (Henry Garcin) – who’s slowly approaching dead- weigh heavily on Helmer. He’s responsible for all the lives surrounding him: his father, the animals, his own life. Even his own reflection feels foreign. Every time Helmer takes a look in the mirror he sees his twin brother. The brother who would inherit the farm from their father was it not for the fact that he got killed…
It’s All So Quiet is an engaging and intricate film. Stillness dominates the film and Leopold’s screenplay cleverly enfolds the story and shows the tension in Helmer’s (inner) life with minor exchanges. The handheld camerawork of Frank van den Eeden is excellent. The camera allows the audience to see the emotional isolation of Helmer, when the camera moves freely through the stables and the farmhouse. The desolate world of Helmer is made strikingly visible with sober and frugal lit interiors. The traditional rural life is used as a canvas for a character study on Helmer. Slowly Helmer’s isolated world begins to burst at its seams. Helmer’s inner struggle to reclaim his life is palpable throughout the film. He slowly reaches out to others, may it be the dairy driver Johan (Wim Opbrouck ) who doesn’t hide his attraction for Helmer or Henk (Martijn Lakemeier), the young live-in farmhand.
It’s All So Quiet has all the elements for an enigmatic, intense experience. Unfortunately, the dialogues sometimes fall flat and it affects the beautiful painted picture of rural country life. The same can be said for the inconsistent performances of the actors. Every actor in the film has its own dialect and therefore it is difficult to imagine that the son -who has spent his life stuck at the farm- inexplicably picked up a different accent than his father. Although, Willems and Garcin both give an admirably subdued performance. In the end, It’s All So Quiet is one of the better book-to-movie adaptations. The excellent portrayal of Willems, as the struggling farmer Helmer, alights the screen – and warms my cold heart.
Giselle enjoys googling random things like it’s academic research but her grandma Hilda had a premonition of a great future. So, there’s that.
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