Magazine article The Nation

Antonia's Line

Magazine article The Nation

Antonia's Line

Article excerpt

Metropolitan centers such as Hong Kong and Los Angeles are good at making movies about urban anomie; pictures about communities, urban or rural, now seem to be a specialty of filmmakers from smaller places. I'm thinking especially of recent pictures that were full of prodigies: idiots, geniuses, saints, brutes, visionaries and myopics, all bound together through the years because they belong to one family or neighborhood or village. We've had such filrns from Belgium (Toto the Hero), from Quebec (Leolo), from Sweden (What's Eating Gilbert Grape? - a so-called Hollywood picture made by Lasse Hallstrom and Sven Nykvist). Now, from the Netherlands, comes Antonia's Line, a surprisingly gentle and droll film by Marleen Gorris.

Till now, Gorris has been best known for her 1982 debut feature, A Question of Silence, regarded by some as a landmark of feminist cinema and by others (me, for instance) as allegorical kitsch. I had no problem with the film's proposal that women rnight like to kill men, just to let off steam. Lizzie Borden put forth a similar notion in Born in Flames, which immediately became one of my favorite films of the 1980s. The difference, for me, was that Borden cared about small matters such as day-to-day politics and the material world, which for Gorris were beneath notice, though not contempt.

With that as background, I'm delighted to report that Antonia's Line succeeds in being every bit as feminist as A Question of Silence while rooting itself in reality. Granted, that reality is more notional than material, despite all the hay-pitching and outdoor banqueting that goes on from 1945 to the present in the film's Dutch village. …

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