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Alex van Warmerdam

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Hailing a Dutch genius - Van Warmerdam

Like almost everybody else of his generation in the Netherlands, Jaap Guldemond, Director of Exhibitions at Eye Filmmuseum, has long been aware of the genius of Alex van Warmerdam. Now he has devised an exhibition dedicated to the master’s brilliant output.

Guldemond first encountered Van Warmerdam’s work more than three decades ago. “He is the one you’ve known for so long,” Guldemond reflects. He himself was 15 years old when he first saw one of Van Warmerdam’s plays. “There was music involved, and young people – it was quite different from the normal theatre. It was much more open, a little absurd. I was at my high school. A lot of girls from my class and of my age all fell in love with the guys from the theatre company.”

Guldemond has followed the Dutch polymath’s career ever since then. Van Warmerdam, who was born in 1952, has now directed 9 feature films. (A new one, with a working title o  No. 10, is on the way.) His 2013 Borgman was in the main Cannes competition – one of the few recent Dutch movies to have achieved this honour. The director’s brother Marc is his producer; his other brother Vincent often composes the music for his films. Alex, though, is the director and the brightest star in the family firmament. As Guldemond notes, his work is utterly distinctive. You can tell it is by him the moment you see it. In his career, he has never compromised. His work is always exactly as he wants it. “Even though theatre and film is a collective effort, in the end everything originates and is decided by him. That makes it beautiful, I think.”

Alongside his film work, Van Warmerdam has also written, painted and experimented in almost every other art form imaginable. He is an actor and poet too. Now, he has been rewarded with his very own exhibition at the EYE Museum in Amsterdam. This runs from mid-June to early September. The exhibition is also full of typically idiosyncratic new work from the Dutch master. “The original concept of the exhibition is not only to present him as a filmmaker but as a multi-talented artist, because that is what he is,” Guldemond explains.

Van Warmerdam was given a free hand to develop the new work for the show. To begin with, he wanted to work with live actors. That was too complicated given that the exhibition lasts for over three months – and would have been a huge demand on these actors’ time. Instead, he has developed some installations, made new experimental films, provided a huge new painting four metres wide and has made some sculptural work. Fragments from his films will also be presented on five large screens.

Among new artworks he has created are a life-size show box, a missing girl, a book that turns its own pages, ‘creatures of the forest’ on a constantly changing canvas and a very peculiar aquarium. “There is an absurdism you recognise in everything he does,” Guldemond says of the links audiences will immediately spot between the film, the art and the theatrical elements in the show. Guldemond suggests Van Warmerdam’s humour is quintessentially Dutch.

“He took almost one whole year off to develop this exhibition. You can say that it is the result of ten months’ work. It is also very typical of Alex that he only does one thing at a time. If he is working on an exhibition, he cannot work on a film. If he is working on a film, he cannot work in theatre. If he is working in theatre, he cannot work on a film... it is very joyful to work with him – quite a nice experience for me as well!” the curator enthuses.

The exhibition Alex van Warmerdam - L'histoire kaputt runs from 10 June through 2 September 2018. More info on the exhibition can be found on eyefilm.nl

SEE NL Magazine #31 May 2018 / Cannes & Annecy 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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