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Bloody Marie, the eagerly awaited second film of Guido van Driel, co-directed by Lennert Hillege, world-premieres in IFFR Limelight. The director talks to Nick Cunningham about drunks, rooftops and animating Amsterdam.

In Bloody Marie, produced by Family Affair Films and supported by the Netherlands Film Fund, Guido van Driel violently meshes two different sides of Amsterdam's Red Light District. On one hand it is a squalid location for international prostitution and drug-dealing, on the other a homely neighbourhood populated by friendly locals who look after each other's best interests.

These extremes meet in the story of Marie, an objectionable drunk by night, a sensitive and thoughtful (and hungover) graphic novelist by day who is unable to repeat the one publishing success she had with her Porn for the Blind. One night in a dark alley, she swaps a fabulous pair of red Jimmy Choos for a bottle of spirits, thereby setting in motion a gory tale of murder, mayhem and creative renaissance.

The story was co-directed/written with Lennert Hillege (also DOP on Bloody Marie as well as Retrospekt, see p16) and inspired by an alcoholic friend of theirs who seemed almost beyond redemption. "The original idea was that it would be a male character in the main part, but then Lennert thought 'why shouldn't we make him a woman', which we both thought was more interesting."
German actress Suzanne Wolf (Styx, 2018) was signed up and subsequently turned in an astounding performance as Marie. Whether drunk and offensive, sharing a bottle of vodka with an apparition of her deceased mother, or pathetically trying to convince a publisher of her remaining powers as an illustrator, she exudes authenticity, authority and grace. In one terrifyingly vertiginous sequence she scales the side of her Amsterdam townhouse, drunk as a lord, and ends up tottering on the roof in her stockinged feet 100 feet over Amsterdam.

"We found her after meticulously investigating many many German actresses - seeing a lot of showreels. During her audition she did something which surprised Van Driel, shouting with drunken familarity at the apparition of her dead mother. "That really proved to me that she understood the sense of intimacy between Marie and her mother. Then she immediately told us that she was interested in learning Dutch, which was quite extraordinary, and which she did in a very short time." And on acting drunk? "We didn't actually give her that much advice. We told her to spin around before you do the scene so you get a bit dizzy - that's all she did. The rest was her acting abilities."

One of the key motifs within the film is the insertion, like punctuation, of graphic drawings (created by the director) that offer surreal counterpoint to the rich and colour-saturated action within the narrative. The first drawing, of an enormous red shoe placed upon a tidy and monochrome Amsterdam, stops you in your tracks, making you wonder what it is you have just seen. The drawings, Van Driel suggests, indicate both the psychological state of Marie's mind and her increasing reliance on the pen (and diminishing need for the bottle).

Borgman (and Peaky Blinders) star Jan Bijvoet puts in a spirited performance once more as a quasi-supernatural sprite who befriends her, but whose seeming omnipotence she finds disconcerting, especially as he knows so much of her dead mother. His character grew out of a dinner party experience when Van Driel and his wife met a woman who took his wife's hand and began to tell her detailed personal stuff about her life and that of her recently deceased father. "Her occult talents always randomly came to the surface, she said, and she told us so much stuff that she never could have known, as we met her for the very first time that night. It was a very impressive evening."

SEE NL Magazine #34 November 2019 / Sundance, IFFR, Berlin and Clermont Ferrand issue

SEE NL is published four times per year by Eye International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.

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