‘I think we’ve made a film with Narcosis that casts a little spell on you’

Martijn de Jong and Laura van Dijk, director and screenwriter of the film ‘Narcosis’.Picture Daniel Cohen

Suppose: someone types the name ‘Martijn de Jong’ into Google. For example, one from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who will participate in the decisions on the entries for the Oscar for Best International Film. So the Dutch dive in first mixed martial artsfighter Martijn de Jong up. And not his namesake, the director of the Dutch Oscar entry narcosis. Also on IMDB, the world’s most used online film database, more Martijnen de Jong are now appearing.

“My producer said, huh, you’ve worked on six martial arts movies?”

Martijn de Jong (1982) – the director – will fly to Los Angeles next month for a screening of his debut feature alongside lead actress Thekla Reuten. ‘When they see me there, during the interview afterwards, they might think: God, she’s lost weight.’

The director sits at the table next to his screenwriter and girlfriend Laura van Dijk (1972), in the Amsterdam neighborhood of De Baarsjes. To the interviewer, who had mentioned the other Martijn de Jong: ‘But what exactly was your question?’

Has he ever considered a stage name? After all, the Dutch film world already had the necessary De Jongs: Ate, Mijke, Sam.

“It might have been better, yes. De Jong is so ordinary it’s almost funny.’

‘Van Dijk and De Jong’, notes Van Dijk.

‘The funny thing is’, says De Jong, ‘that I once thought: If I become a top footballer, this is not necessarily the best name. Frenkie de Jong: I understand. Martijn de Jong on the ball: a bit drowsy. But when I started as a director, I never thought: oh, it’s nice for the audience if they also know my name’.

September Film, the Dutch distributor of narcosis, did not hesitate. ‘A film by Martijn de Jong’ is featured prominently on the poster and in the trailer. ‘I asked: how will my name attract more people? Nobody knows me yet, right? It’s about the proposal, they said; that people think: oh, I must know that name. So now it’s too late for an artist name anyway. I will continue as Martijn de Jong.’

Hundreds of post-its

For two years in the making, the film covered an entire wall in the filmmakers’ upstairs apartment, cut up into many hundreds of post-its, with colors to mark the scenes and times. Today, there are still three orphaned pieces of paper, overlooking their small children’s advancing toys. Short scenarios, immediately recognizable to whom narcosis have seen: ‘John drives away’, ‘Boris dives’ and ‘piano’.

    Fedja van Huêt and Thekla Reuten in 'Narcosis'.  Picture

Fedja van Huêt and Thekla Reuten in ‘Narcosis’.

John is the father played by Fedja van Huêt, a professional diver. He can no longer get out of the eerily deep South African Boesmansgat, causing his family to be disturbed. Boris is his son who, like sister Ronja, tries to understand their father’s sudden absence in his own way, while the mother Merel, shot in survival mode, tends to deny. And the piano, which stands in the garden of their attractive but maintenance-intensive detached house; John plays the melancholic theme tune (by Canadian musician Patrick Watson) that returns in the final scene.

Van Dijk, looking at the now almost post-it-free wall: ‘It wasn’t like going home and letting it go for a while. I think we’re looking for an office for the next film.’

De Jong: ‘It’s also nice to immerse yourself in the film in this way. But everything becomes part of that home office: your relationship, the children.’

Grief and loss

narcosis was quickly classified as a ‘mourning drama’, which is not entirely in line with the filmmakers’ intentions. Van Dijk: ‘It’s a bit of a stamp: sadness, loss. It’s in there, it’s real’.

De Jong: ‘A film about grief – if I read it that way, I wouldn’t be very excited. While I think we’re in narcosis have made a film that enchants you a little, shows you another world. That’s the beauty of movies, isn’t it?’

Van Dijk: ‘Crying at a film can sometimes be nice too.’

De Jong: ‘But there are also funny moments in it, it’s not a very heavy film. After the first public performance, I spoke to someone who said: I now want to go home and cuddle my children for a week. That feeling.’

Van Dijk, who also wrote the screenplay for the award-winning youth film My very strange week with Tesscame up with the idea thanks to two podcasts narcosis. One was about a diver who disappeared in Boesmansgat, and one about the phenomenon win phone, the phone box invented in Japan after the tsunami for people who want to call deceased loved ones. Also in narcosis shows such a non-connected phone box. ‘What if your loved one’s body cannot be found? That question intrigued me. How do you deal with that? And children can also deal with grief very differently compared to adults. Ronja still has the age of magical thinking in the film. Boris is a little older, he is angry with the world.’

De Jong: ‘Merel knows that John is no longer alive, but at the same time she has no evidence: his body has not been found. Then you can get stuck in denial’.

Thekla Reuten in 'Narcosis'.  Picture

Thekla Reuten in ‘Narcosis’.

That Merel in the film is also a medium, or ‘clairsentient’. And when she cautiously resumes her professional practice after a while, husband John breaks in during her sessions. narcosis is told in such a way that the viewer does not necessarily have to follow the supernatural; it can also only take place in Merel’s head.

“When I talked about the film, I noticed something of shame in myself,” says Van Dijk. “Okay, here it comes: and she’s lucid. I still think it’s exciting. How will people react? Will they quit? One thing, here in sober Holland. I don’t think that’s possible either. And yet it fascinates me.’

De Jong: ‘Whether you believe in the media or not, it doesn’t matter. The film has to work anyway’.

No relationship yet

De Jong grew up in the village of Simonshaven, below Rotterdam. Mother clothing designer, father urban planner. Van Dijk comes from an Amsterdam family of artists: mother flamenco dancer, father musical actor Bill van Dijk. She also writes scripts for her sister, director Nova van Dijk. De Jong and Van Dijk had no relationship at the start of their first collaboration Availablea TV drama about a girl who corresponds with a lifer.

So yes. narcosis is in no way biographical nor free from the personal. Father John’s habit of hiding unusually well when, for example, playing with his children. “Martijn already had it before we had children,” says Van Dijk. “Then I rang his doorbell, came upstairs and suddenly he was gone, hidden. Sometimes I really couldn’t find him.’ The house in the film is also reminiscent of the director’s parental home. And then there is his mother, with whom production designer began to speak to imagine Merel’s spiritual world.

De Jong: ‘My mother is clear-headed. I was wondering if this was going to be in the movie. You will soon see Jomanda in a flowing dress in front of you, I will protect my mother and Merel from that image.’

Van Dijk: ‘What I liked about Martijn’s mother when I heard about it was that she wasn’t particular about it at all.’

Thekla Reuten as Merel in 'Narcosis'.  Picture

Thekla Reuten as Merel in ‘Narcosis’.

De Jong: ‘We put Merel down soberly: boots in the mud, grumpy but not fluent. She happens to be able to do this just as anyone else can do anything else. And my mother, she is a normal, sweet and intelligent woman. I don’t think she does what she thinks she does. But at the same time it’s not fake either. She feels something, it’s genuine. And she helps people with it. I only hear stories from people who are grateful to her.’

Close to the circus

On the advice of Thekla Reuten, who got an overseas career from the Oscar-nominated feature film The twins, De Jong is in talks with agencies in Los Angeles. ‘We will go there in November, the shortlist for the nominations will be published in January. It is especially nice to be so close to the circus. Thekla has been doing this her whole life, I’m so glad she’s coming. With her, someone really comes in: eloquent, full of humor.’

That publisherthat promotes the campaign and press moments narcosis care in the United States, De Jong already asked: what are you open to? “Let’s turn it around,” I replied. What can be done? The funny thing is that no one has seen the movie yet. So I think: go and look first. At the same time I spoke with Joost van Ginkel, whose film Paradise Suite was once the Oscar entry. Joost later learned that he had behaved a little too modestly in Los Angeles. So you have to take care of that too.’

Three golden calves

Chosen as an Oscar entry by the Dutch selection committee narcosis premiered at the Dutch Film Festival last month. The Dutch Film Academy honored the film by director Martijn de Jong and screenwriter Laura van Dijk with three Golden Calves: one for Best Costumes (Manon Blom), one for Best Cinematography (Martijn van Broekhuizen) and one for Best Actress (Thekla). Reuten).

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