Posted at 9:08 AM on April 25, 2006
by Euan Kerr
I am detecting a theme in the 2006 Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival, but it could just be a general cinematic obsession.
How "A Soap" shows real life is more dramatic than television
"A Soap" (screening this evening and Thursday) is a small Danish film which plays with the conventions of the soap opera to tell a story of two lost souls both looking for love.
Charlotte has left her husband Christian because she feels there is something lacking in their relationship. She take an apartment above Veronica, a transgendered woman who is waiting to hear whether the government will approve a sex-change operation. Deeply depressed, she makes a living as a prostitute, but escapes her wretched reality by watching cheesy soap operas from the US.
When they meet the wasp-tongued Charlotte angers Veronica by pointing out that her wig and make- up do little to hide that she is in fact male, and Veronica storms off in a huff. In times they become friends as each faces personal crises. Veronica introduces Charlotte to the soaps, and she begins watching too. Eventually their friendship deepens, which only heightens their confusion.
"A Soap" pauses several times to give a soap opera like update, with a deep voiced announcer asking questions about the possible resolution in the characters lives. On one level Charlotte and Veronica's hum-drum lives would never appear in any TV soap, but their story shows that real life can be every bit as dramatic.
"Simon" puts a Dutch spin on life (and death)
Eddy Terstall's "Simon" (screening Wednesday) throws together an unlikely pair of characters, (Simon, a boorish womanizing Amsterdam coffeehouse owner/dope dealer, and Camiel, a self-conscious gay dental student,) and then follows them through a couple of decades of friendship.
What keeps them together is Simon's relentless good humor, whether it be when he is bullying people into doing things for him, or later on when he is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
Early on the film plays for laughs, and the humorous tone is maintained throughout the movie. But as Simon's illness becomes more serious and he begins considering euthanasia (legal in the Netherlands) the film takes on a much more philosphical bent. As Camiel and his partner Bram discuss details of their upcoming wedding, Simon talks with his children and his former girlsfriends about what he is going to do. It's a bittersweet mixture that produces smiles one moments and tears the next.
As the debate continues within society and in the state legislature about how to define family, this very Dutch film throws an all together different light on many of the same issues.