Review: Bloody Marie
by Chris Frieswijk
- Guido van Driel and Lennert Hillege bring us the story of Marie Wankelmut, a graphic novelist and alcoholic in Amsterdam’s red-light district
In their vodka-infused thriller Bloody Marie [+see also:
film profile], which has world-premiered at the 48th International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), in the Limelight section, Guido van Driel and Lennert Hillege whisk us away to a world where the air seems saturated with alcohol and the party never stops, even if it means going crazy on a dance floor by yourself. At least that’s what protagonist Marie Wankelmut, played by German actress Susanne Wolff, proves. In case you were in any doubt, Marie, who is a moderately famous graphic novelist, struggles with an alcohol problem. She staggers between the closest liquor shop and her house, with an occasional stop at some random, shady bar, all the while followed by her loyal dog, Lieze. Marie’s magnum opus is called Porn for the Blind, but it doesn’t really garner her any success, other than getting her recognised on the street by the odd fan. Her search for another euro to enable her to buy her next bottle leads her from one conflict to another.
The film opens in a seedy bar in between the sex clubs of Amsterdam’s red-light district, where Marie is spinning out of control on the dance floor. Clearly, it’s the alcohol speaking (and moving, for that matter), as she gets into an argument with two guys, who eventually ask her: “Do you enjoy life even a little?” That is a question that echoes throughout the film as we try to grasp what (besides the booze) motivates her to indulge in such self-destructive behaviour. It becomes clear that her turbulent relationship with her late mother, who was an alcoholic as well, plays a part. Genes can be a pain. Interestingly, though, it doesn’t always seem to be in her hands, as the film vaguely suggests that there is something larger at play. Marie meets the adoringly awkward Oscar Doki, who jokingly claims to be in touch with the afterlife and mentions that her mother has actually forgiven her for everything. As much as this sounds like a turning point in her struggles, the real breakthrough only comes after she steps on the toes of Dragomir, the pimp next door. After Marie gets embroiled in some shady business involving people smuggling and murder, she emerges as a true fighter, kick-starting her creativity once more.
Co-director van Driel, who is a graphic artist himself, has a knack for creating these rough-edged settings, in which the protagonist goes through a major transformation. In The Resurrection of a Bastard [+see also:
interview: Guidovan Driel
film profile], his previous feature, which opened the IFFR in 2013, he depicts a character with similar tendencies. And as extreme as it may sound, the scenes themselves are filled with everyday trivialities, sometimes even to a comical extent. It gives the whole thing a very human feel and somehow serves to relativise the decisions that our main character makes. In fact, we learn that there is often not much of a choice at all. After all, “The chicken clucks, and the comic artist drinks,” as Marie would say. There's not much more to it than that.
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