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BIF&ST 2015

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Accused: Is the nurse a serial killer?


- Probably the most resounding case of legal error in Dutch history brought to film by director Paula van der Oest. In cinemas in the Netherlands in April

Accused: Is the nurse a serial killer?
Accused by Paula van der Oest

Nurse serial killers. Every country has them. "Angels of death” who have been in the news and more recently in TV broadcasts, for weeks.

Dutch woman Lucia de Berk’s story, however, is unique. Commencing in 2003 with all of the horror inherent in the gestures of a person who kills newborns with haloperidol, it became perhaps the most resounding case of legal error in Dutch history. 

Bringing it to the big screen now is Paula van der Oest, who excelled at the Oscars in 2003 with Zus & Zo. Her new film Lucia de B. [+see also:
film profile
 (Accused), screened at the Bari Bif&st, will be released in Dutch cinemas on 3 April with Pathé, after being tapped as the national candidate for the Oscars this year. 

From the very first scene the director clears away any misunderstandings: Accused is not a serial-killer movie, on the contrary, it comes under the “Dreyfus Affair" genre. What Paula van der Oest seeks to illustrate is how prejudice, unscrupulous business, mass hysteria and the "media circus" can bring an innocent person to be sentenced to life imprisonment and to the media gallows. 

During the film the director reconstructs the figure of this nurse (Ariane SchutlerOber [+see also:
film profile
), meticulous to the point of obsession and described by her colleagues, out of pure professional jealousy, as a cold, distant, calculating and manipulative woman. Rumours claim that she abandoned her daughter and that she works as a prostitute. In fact we discover that Lucia has a very difficult relationship with her mother, who sold her, while she was still a teenager, to men in squalid motel rooms.  

When too many accidental deaths occur in the hospital in which she works, she becomes highly suspect and on edge, while a young and ambitious deputy public attorney (Sallie Harmsen), fresh from her thesis degree on profiling serial criminals, traps her with ease and has her sentenced. When she becomes aware of the error and the manipulation of the evidence by the hospital management staff and by the public attorney, she will help the defence to clear her name. 

The protagonist’s impenetrable face in a wonderful performance by Ariane Schutler is remembered long after viewing the film, which isn’t in fact much different from an episode of a quality TV series. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, given that the best screenwriters and directors are nowadays working in that sector. But perhaps we expect more from cinema, that its stories become paradigms and constitute a model for interpreting human actions in society.

(Translated from Italian)

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