How interesting could the day-to-day life of a middle-aged, closeted farmer be? The answer? Not very. Nanouk Leopold’s stripped back approach to directing gives viewers a look into the repetitive nature of life and whilst this doesn’t make for riveting, edge-of-your-seat viewing, it does give you plenty of time to think about the greater ideas floating about in this Dutch feature.
Helmer (Jeroen Willems) spends his days working the family farm and caring for his ailing father, Vader (Henri Garcin). In between milking cows and shearing sheep, Helmer has stunted conversations with the good-intentioned neighbor, the awkward yet endearing milkman and his ultimate object of resentment: his father. At surface value all this make for intriguing viewing; you want to know more about his social introversion, his suppressed sexuality and fragile relationship with his father. Instead Leopold leaves it up to us to interpret every frown and blank stare.
When Henk (Martijn Lakemeier) the baby-faced farmhand arrives to help out you think that maybe now something is about to happen. But no, just more sour looks meant to represent stoicism that could equally be mistaken for Willems’ own boredom. The real problem with It’s All So Quiet (Boven Is Het Still) is how many missed opportunities there seem to be flying around. At the core, this is a movie that warns the viewer on the peril of wasting life. It made me think about all the things I didn’t say and didn’t do and reminded me of how we all have to work hard to fight the monotony that life can very often bring about.
The best films are the ones that demand you to delve beyond the visuals. Whilst there is a lot more than meets the eye, It’s All So Quiet meekly asks you to think about all the things that have made Helmer incapable of warmth. The damaging effects of parent-child relationships, not knowing how to be one’s self and the value of freedom are all themes that are touched upon, albeit with very little punch.
Equal parts beautiful, frustrating and atmospheric, It’s All So Quiet is a weird one to judge. Jeroen Willems has a presence about him but is almost completely restrained by the indulgent direction. This could have been a film as affecting as Haneke’s Amour (2012) instead what we are left with is a film that spends far too long accentuating the ugliness of age. All in all, a lost chance.
It’s All So Quiet is now available in the UK on DVD and VOD