Tuesday, January 29, 2008

De Passievrucht (2003) aka Father's Affair

What happens to the father of a 13-year-old son, when he discovers that he has been infertile all his life?

About the autor:

Karel Van Loon is the author of two best-selling novels and a collection of stories based on his travels which was shortlisted for the ECI prize. He has travelled widely as a freelance journalist and television programme-maker. He lives in Amsterdam. A Father's Affair has been translated into 16 languages.

De passievrucht (A Father's Affair, though literally it means the passion fruit) is about the most beautiful fruit of shared passion that a couple can bear: a child. The child in question is Bo (the talented Dai Carter), who lives together with his father Armin (Peter Paul Muller) and his second wife Ellen (Halina Reijn) in Amsterdam. Bo and Ellen get along fine, though Ellen is not Bo’s natural mother; this honour belongs to Monika (Carice van Houten), who has died ten years before we meet our characters.

Bo is your typical adolescent, experimenting with love and lust and trying to find out who he really is. He might not really be who he thought he was, however. His father tells him he has just discovered that he suffers from a rare condition that has left him infertile since birth. This means Monika is still Bo’s mother, but that Armin’s paternity is out of the question. Armin is desperate to know who has fathered "his" child if it was not him, though Bo seems less concerned. He seems to think: "I am being raised by Armin and Ellen and that’s that."

Armin starts a real crusade in order to find the answer to that one question that seems to have taken over his life. First he interrogates the doctor (whom he suspects might have had an eye on Monika around the time Bo was born) and Ellen, who was Monika’s best friend until her untimely death. Soon he is racking his brain as to whom to interrogate next, whilst Bo seeks refuge from Armin’s relentless quest at the house of his grandfather (and Armin’s father) Huib (the grand Jan Decleir, from Oscar-winning features Antonia’s Line and Character).

This film about a child as a fruit of passion is poured into the facile mould of a quest for a single answer (who is the father?) and as such is technically a mystery rather than a drama about fatherhood. I suspect that the homonymous Karel Glastra van Loon novel, on which the film is based, was more meditative about what fatherhood really entails (and probably got into the nature vs nurture debate) but unfortunately the film sidesteps any of these philosophical questions to chase after Armin from one interrogation to the next.

The film’s visual style is also reminiscent of a fast-paced thriller rather than a contemplative drama, with director Maarten Treurniet overdoing it with its continual (artificial) downpour and camera-trickery and effects that suggest speed and movement. This "modern" gimmickery is muted however by the utterly conventional use of flash-backs to the time Monika was alive. Leaving aside the genre-issues, the question of who inseminated a woman long dead is not something that makes for an intriguing narrative that lasts the 100-odd minutes of this feature. The script is simply too weak to retain the audience’s attention throughout. We are not able to identify fully with any of the characters and least of all Armin, whose actions drive the plot but whose motivations are never fully explained or even explored. by Boyd van Hoeij

Torrent : here
All subs: here

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