Dir: Theo van Gogh. The Netherlands, 2004. 120 mins
06/05 has considerable, albeit morbid, fascination as thelast feature of the Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was killed by an Islamicextremist in November 2004. There are uncanny parallels between Van Gogh's owndismal fate and the events he depicts in the film. This is a very slickly madeconspiracy thriller, exploring the backdrop to the assassination of right-wingDutch politician Pim Fortuyn on the 6th May 2002 (hence the title.) The sceneshere of the Dutch public and media in a state of shock that such an event couldtake place on their soil prefigure those in the Netherlands after Van Gogh'sown death.
The film has had an unusualdistribution history. Telecommunications company Tiscali briefly made itavailable for Dutch viewers to download in December 2004. 06/05 thenreceived its theatrical premiere as the opening title of the Dutch Perspectivessidebar at the Rotterdam Film Festival in late January.
This is a film in a verydifferent register to Submission, the hugely controversial short VanGogh made with Somali-Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali about the oppression ofwomen within Islam. Though Van Gogh comes up with some provocative theoriesabout why Fortuyn was assassinated, 06/05 is a mainstream drama whichlocal audiences should be able to appreciate, whether or not they are wellversed in the minutiae of recent Dutch political history.
In normal circumstances, onewould not expect such a project to travel much beyond Dutch borders, but thereis now such international interest in Van Gogh that distributors' curiosity maybe piqued. For the same reason, 06/05 may also enjoy some exposure onthe festival circuit.
Van Gogh begins the actionwith a bravura set-piece. Rapid cross-cutting, eerie music and a plethora ofhigh angle shots crank up the tension as jaded photographer Jim De Booij (ThijsRomer) set off on a photo-assignment with a minor soap opera star. He doesn'trealise that Fortuyn is in a radio studio, giving an interview, only a shortdistance away. While Jim is snapping away, shots ring out. A car roars off,hitting Jim's motorbike. To his embarrassment, he subsequently discovers he wasonly yards from the scene of Fortuyn's assassination, but he has missed thestory.
Documentary-style footage ofDutch citizens watching the TV with a sense of mounting disbelief('impossible in Holland but it happened') is interspersed withconventional thriller exposition. Van Gogh throws in a few nods to Antonioni's BlowUp (this too is a story about a photographer investigating a murder.)
The screenplay, co-writtenby Thomas Ross and Theo Van Gogh, comes up with an elaborate theory thatFortuyn's death was somehow connected with US plans to prod the DutchGovernment into voting in favour of the hugely expensive Joint Strike Fighterproject. Fortuyn was against JSF, but after his death, his party began to backthe project. Whether or not the filmmakers really believed in their own theoryis a moot point: one guesses it may just have been a McGuffin to set the plotin motion.
Despite his extreme views onrace and immigration, Fortuyn (constantly seen in archive footage of old newsreports) is presented in a surprisingly sympathetic fashion. The radical leftwing groups and politicians who demonised him are shown in far less favourablelight.
Van Gogh throws in plenty ofchases, surveillance scenes and sequences showing cynical, sadistic secretservice types up to mischief. 06/05 occasionally slips into thrillermovie cliche. (Take the scene of the car being dragged out of the water, or thestereotypical shots of a busy news room, or the sequence in which a dead man isdragged out of an apartment block by a Turkish businessman passing him off as adrunk.) Nonetheless, Van Gogh elicits a committed performances from Thijs Romeras the lollipop-sucking detective and a quietly affecting one from Tara Eldersas the naïve Turkish human rights activist who allows herself to be drawn intowhat turns out to be state-sponsored terrorism. Jack Wouterse also acquitshimself well as the brooding, jowly heavy.
06/05 doesn't reveal Van Gogh as any kind of masterfilmmaker with deep insights into Dutch political and social culture, but itdoes show him as a competent craftsman with a flair for action sequences and anability to keep his narrative rattling along. In view of his own death, theclosing credits (which show Fortuyn's funeral) take on an added poignancy.
Prod: Column Producties, Gijs van de Westelaken
Sales: Metronome Productions
Dutch dist: Inspire Pictures
Scr: Thomas Ross, Theo van Gogh
Camera: Thomas Kist, Joost van Herwijnen, Alex de Waal
Ed: Merel Notten
Prod des: Jan Rutgers
Sound: Leo Franssen
Cast: Tara Elders, Thijs Römer, Marcel Hensema, Jack Wouterse