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Wij

Summer experimentation among teenage friends takes progressively darker turns.

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Within its first few shots, WIJ sets its stylistic bar high, coupling perfectly composed bird’s-eye shots (fields, ports, cityscapes, and finally a magisterial courtroom) with a lush, exuberant dream-pop soundtrack. Within the courtroom, the film quickly falls to earth: the music stops, a young witness is sworn in, and a somber voiceover transitions into the first of the film’s four RASHOMON-esque parts.

Set in a village along the Belgian-Dutch border, the main action of the story takes place over the course of a summer, following a group of teenage friends (four boys and four girls, with two from each group narrating the film’s four sections). “For the first time in years, it really felt like summer,” says Simon, narrating the first section. The camera follows through on the statement, alternating long takes of verdant landscapes with more voyeuristic shots of the group in various states of undress.

In both its visuals and soundtrack, the film takes its cues from other dark coming-of-age films like THE VIRGIN SUICIDES and, in its more explicit scenes, KIDS. Content-wise, WIJ goes further than these films, setting scenes of increasingly transgressive (and sometimes unsimulated) sexual acts to upbeat pop, and maintaining its slick visuals and editing even as the story veers into more stomach-turning material.

While the soundtrack is excellent and the scenes are often beautiful, these stylistic strengths ultimately put the film at odds with itself, to the point that its upbeat tone feels ill-conceived (a more raw and hands-off aesthetic, like that of Lars von Trier’s THE IDIOTS, may have kept a much-needed neutrality intact and let viewers process the events on their own). Still, WIJ covers a lot of ground in its taut 90-minute runtime, and its visual richness and thematic bravery will leave at least a few scenes burned into the viewer’s memory – for better or worse.

John Peck

Credits

Niederlande 2018, 100 min
Genre: Drama, Literary Film Adaptations
Director: Rene Eller
Author: Rene Eller, Elvis Peeters
Montage: Wouter van Luijn
Distributor: Der Filmverleih
Cast: Pauline Casteleyn, Laura Drosopoulos, Gaia Sofia Cozijn
FSK: 18
Release: 16.05.2019

Website

Screenings

Screenings

  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
English/with English subtitles
All languages

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