by Júlia Olmo
- Dutch director Jacqueline van Vugt presents a simple yet successful debut film about the fear of loss and the violence of everyday life
“I had just learned the terrible news that, sooner or later, every human has to face: What you love, you are going to lose; what has been given to you will be taken away'," Amélie Nothomb wrote in The Character of Rain. This is precisely what Crossing, the first feature film by Dutch director Jacqueline van Vugt, screened at the Seville Film Festival after its premiere at the Warsaw Film Festival, touches on: the fear of loss, of losing what you love.
The film tells three intersecting stories during a ferry crossing from Morocco to Spain. A Dutch couple in crisis lose one of their two children on the boat; the captain of the same boat is travelling with his wife and pregnant daughter to start a new life in Spain away from the child's father, whom his father-in-law refuses to recognise; meanwhile, on Spanish territory, two watchmen pick up the corpses that wash ashore as their personal lives fall apart. From these intertwining stories, the film discusses that inescapable fear of loss, that living means facing that fear, of the fear of becoming strangers to the people we love, of the complexity of sentimental relationships, of the inevitable link between love and pain, of human fragility, of our dependent condition, of the fact that we necessarily depend on each other, of the need to love and be loved, to desire and be desired. Also, of the constant danger that exists in our everyday, of the violence surrounding us (especially sexual and racial) and of its impunity, of how it is silenced and made invisible in everyday life.
All of this is told simply, in the classic cross-story manner, with each story alternating without artifice or pretentiousness. With restrained and natural performances, the cast brings these characters to life making them believable and giving them humanity. The latent metaphor of the sea as a symbol of the uncertainty and constant danger that surrounds us and from which it is impossible to escape also works, reinforcing the tragic nature of the film. But its greatest achievement lies in its mastery of rhythm and tension. Jacqueline van Vugt manages to gradually take us, with restraint and with the precise time that each story needs to be told, to that tragic ending. It is in this approach that the film excels, creating moments that move from the everyday and innocuous to the threat and violence latent throughout the film (with emotionally tense scenes, such as the one where there is a chance that one of the Dutch couple's children could be thrown overboard).
Perhaps the film's greatest weakness also comes from its conventionality. Although this is probably not its intention, there is nothing extraordinary about it. What it tells and how it tells it is easily reminiscent of other films seen a thousand times before, and overall, it also feels as if it lacks emotional strength. Despite this, however, Crossing is a successful film, which manages to create a tragedy out of the violence and terror of everyday life.
Crossing is produced by the Dutch company Revolver Amsterdam and co-produced by the Belgian company A Private View and the Croatian company Nukleus Film. Fortissimo Films manages its international sales.
(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)
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