Review: Met Mes
- Sam de Jong’s new feature is a bizarre cinematic journey about vanity, set in a crazily hallucinatory dimension dominated by oversaturated colours
Writer-director Sam de Jong’s new feature Met Mes [+see also:
interview: Sam de Jong
film profile] will probably be remembered as one of the most bizarre cinematic experiences of this year’s festival season. The title, presented in the Tiger Competition of International Film Festival Rotterdam, follows a very simple narrative. A popular TV host, called Eveline (played by Hadewych Minis), decides to quit her job and to work on her first pretentious documentary film, defined as "a warm, endearing portrait of society". One day while in a park, she is briefly distracted, and the JVC camera she uses to film her project, recently gifted to her by her partner Ward (Gijs Naber), gets stolen. The police, however, hardly take her report seriously, and the insurance company doesn’t want to pay out – until she lies, saying she was robbed and threatened "with a knife" (in Dutch, "met mes"). Predictably, this immediately has huge consequences for Yousef (Shahine El-Hamus), a young high-school student and the case’s main suspect.
While the premise may sound bland or at least not outstanding in terms of originality, viewers might find some other reasons to define this movie as quite unique. Imagine yourself thrown into a very hallucinatory parallel dimension wherein the colours are saturated (loosely echoing those of Peggy Boggs’ candy cane neighbourhood in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands), environments feel highly artificial, characters follow fashion trends resembling those of the '70s and '80s, and the technology they use is both modern and outdated (for example, Eveline’s camera is an old JVC, whilst laptops and smartphones are clearly brand-new). Moreover, this "neon video fantasy" visible through the film’s production and costume design is not the only aspect out of the ordinary.
In Met Mes, spectators will find actors overacting their parts, sharp camera movements, audacious camera angles, ridiculous sound effects and editing choices belonging to the realms of k-dramas, slapstick comedies, prime-time TV shows and (parodied) psychological dramas. Almost everything on screen is literally over-the-top, but despite its strong, campy aesthetic taste, the overall result is surprisingly balanced – the focus of de Jong’s effort remains to explore the effects of one’s vanity, hypocrisy and stigmatisation.
We gradually find out why Eveline decided to lie, and the unpacking of our lead character’s motives catalyses a significant meta-cinematic component, which adds a sufficient dose of depth to this entertaining viewing experience. The characters’ development is rather sketchy, but it somehow fits the boundaries and codes set by de Jong beforehand. It’s surely an honest choice, as it allows him to keep a playful approach throughout and deliver a concrete message about the dangers of prejudices and one’s urge to be the centre of attention – the latter is a very timely theme – with great irony and light-heartedness.
Met Mes was produced by Dutch studio Lemming Film. Gusto Entertainment is in charge of its local distribution.
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