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Boy Meets Gun

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BIFF: Boy Meets Gun

Joost van Hezik's tragi-comic psycho-noir Boy Meets Gun world-premieres at Busan 2019.

Take one Darwinian biologist suffering a midlife crisis, two feckless wannabe hoodlums, an oppressive father looking for an Oedipal comeuppance, a deluge of animal metaphor and a steely narrator whose identity is unclear right to the end, then throw in a heap of sex and violence, and as many plot twists as your nerves can bear, and you get Boy Meets Gun, a brilliantly crafted psychological roller­-coaster that offers thrills, spills and myriad surprises throughout its 85­-minute duration.

After a short prologue that introduces us to small-­town teenage wastrels Donny and Richard, who are obviously planning some kind of mischief, we meet Maarten Moreau, a biologist bored of his own existence and, for all intents and purposes, invisible to the world. His wife, a research scientist who breeds mutant pet mice with human ears on their backs, is calm but disdainful, while his children barely acknowledge his existence. He continually imagines an alternative husband for her and father for them, to whom each responds warmly.

One day Maarten walks into a supermarket where he is held up at gunpoint. The ‘mischief' that Donny and Richard were planning turns out to be a murderous heist. During the resulting shoot­out a heavyweight .44 pistol ends up at Maarten's feet, but he decides to keep it instead of handing it over to the police. Slowly but surely the gun exerts control over him. Instead of being cowardly, dull and pedestrian he is now brave, interesting and sexy, and he assumes an aura of impregnability. But the gun also renders him reckless, and eventually its owners decide they want it back, with tragic results...

Van Hezik worked closely on the very complex screenplay with screenwriter/director Willem Bosch, honing and ordering it over a period of four months. "It is a crime genre movie so you need to get all the plot points where they need to be," the director underlines. "Also when directing, it's about getting the facts straight and deciding who knows what, and when should we convey what knowledge to the viewer? That was a hard job."

The Coen Bros were an inspiration in the film's realisation, Van Hezik points out, "as their films are on the one hand entertaining but also complex on a philosophical level." From a design perspective, the team looked to the work of Paolo Sorrentino, specifically citing Il Divo and The Consequences of Love. "The camera work of Luca Bigazzi, I adore it."

Music plays a vital role in the film as well, with Christiaan Verbeek's string-­laden score (oppressive, jarring, discomforting) providing auditory counterpoint to the action playing out on screen. Puccini's Nessun Dorma underscores Maarten's transformation to hero at the beginning of the film and accompanies his drive towards a final showdown.

Just as important to proceedings is evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins (whose self­replicating meme theory, as expounded in The Selfish Gene, is referenced in the film), and evolutionary theory in general. The film abounds with animals living within unnatural habitats, whether large insects, iguanas, rare parrots in subterranean captivity or lab mice under the care of Maarten's wife. On the other hand, a key recurring metaphor in the film is a wild butterfly, itself a creature that undergoes profound transformation. (Early in the film Maarten explains how he believes he inhabits the dream of a butterfly).

"I really like symbols and metaphors and I always have a philosophical or thematic approach to a story," Van Hezik insists. "I always need to know what the story is about on a metaphysical level."
Nick Cunningham

SEE NL Magazine #36 September 2019 / Locarno - Venice - Toronto - Netherlands Film Festival 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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