3 By Theo - The Theo van Gogh Collection
by Elaine Hegwood Bowen
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I must admit that I wasn’t too familiar with the late, celebrated and controversial Dutch director Theo van Gogh—other than to remember his death a few years back, accounts of which were broadcast throughout news media in 2004. Van Gogh was related to artist Vincent van Gogh, and Theo was murdered in Amsterdam by a religious extremist, after having received death threats for his film Submission, which portrayed the violence against women in Islamic societies.
But I recently screened a collection of his films called 3 By Theo, and this compilation serves to further strengthen his legacy as an art house innovator and show that he was a great director in his own right. 3 By Theo, which is comprised of 1-900, Blind Date and Interview were all thought provoking and very creative. I enjoyed watching them, because they exercised my brain—no sleeping on the job here! These are considered some of van Gogh’s most landmark and acclaimed films, which have influenced filmmakers worldwide.
Interview is one that really struck me; both the journalist and subject used each other to pick each other’s brains and get to the darkest side imaginable. The beautiful actress Katja Schuurman seemed to be insecure, and the political writer seemed to be out of his element with the pop culture assignment. She makes him wait at first, and I suppose he tries to punish her for doing so. As the interview unfolds, the actress questions whether she reminds him of his daughter, and then he reveals this sad tale about how his daughter had been killed in an auto accident, with the mother at the wheel, while he was in Bosnia, covering the war.
The writer admits that he was drunk when he heard the news, but he also admits that he believes his wife was also drunk while driving. At some point the interview takes a turn, when the actress keeps insisting that the seasoned journalist hadn’t asked her any good questions. As the conversation unfolds, they both learn secrets about each other, but the secret that the journalist discovers doesn’t really belong to the actress.
When he reveals that he’s read the diary, she begins a charade, not telling him the truth. They both become ensared in this game of “push and pull,” filled with sexual tension. But he refuses to sleep with her, an idea at which she keeps hinting. I believe that this sexual tension leads to her ultimate betrayal toward him at the end of the movie.
There is also sexual tension in 1-900, as the “hooker” starts up erotic phone conversations with a lonely architect. They go back and forth with good times and arguments, as if they are a couple. Their phone calls give pleasure to each, but the man decides he wants to meet the woman, and she won’t have any of this. She actually becomes angry when he admits he has put out feelers about her identity. As they go back and forth, switching between moments of ecstasy and moments of anger and jealousy with what goes on in each other’s lives, the architect pulls one over on her that makes him believe that she really would like to meet him personally. She is not too thrilled with his mockery, however.
3 By Theo is an engaging 3-DVD set available September 27 from www.eonehomevideo.com
Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic who is also a news editor with Film Monthly.
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