Now that I’ve seen and ruminated on The Deflowering of Eva van End, I’m still not entirely sure what I’ve seen. It’s as if director Michiel ten Horn and his co-writer, Anne Barnhoorn, took their cue from every Wes Anderson movie, added cruelty (albeit mild cruelty), and let the cameras roll.
How else can one describe the shot compositions, which are perfectly planned and executed, the lengths of the scenes, which are as much a part of the story as the story itself, and the increasingly outlandish behavior of the participants? It’s really like watching a Dutch version of an Anderson movie, with a smidge of Todd Solondz thrown in.
None of those observations is praise or ridicule; they’re simply observations. On the face of it, The Deflowering of Eva van End is a satire, albeit a breezy one, of married life, school life, the suburbs and contemporary notions of beauty. At least, I think that’s what it’s about. The whole thing is so low-key—there’s not the first bit of urgency in this movie—it’s hard to tell.
Eva van End (Vivian Dierickx) is a miserable teenager, an outcast, and from the looks of it, she doesn’t like herself much. Her only friend at school is a girl in a wheelchair, and her only friend at home is a white rabbit.
At dinner one night, she tells her mother, father and two older brothers that a German exchange student is coming to stay with them for two weeks. The family ignores Eva, and when she brings Veit (Rafael Gareisen) home a few days later, everyone is shocked.
To their credit (maybe?), they let him stay, and not long after, beautiful Veit—as his character must in a movie like this—starts to have a profound effect on everyone. Via Skype, Dad makes friends with an African boy Veit is sponsoring and starts planning a way for the boy to start his own company.
Veit introduces Mom to the beauties of transcendental meditation and soon she’s bought herself books and music to help facilitate her practice. Manuel (Abe Dijkman) resents the family’s near swooning over the boy, and plunges into heavy pot smoking and alienation, and the oldest kid, Erwin (Tomer Pawlicki), starts to feel self-conscious about his appearance after an offhand comment Veit makes.
As for Eva, who spends most of her time as the audience surrogate, she ends up in bed with Veit (and that’s not a spoiler—it’s the goddamn title of the movie). There have been other movies out there about strangers coming to town and sparking change, from Pasolini's Teorema to Hal Ashby’s Being There, and whether you find anything new or insightful here depends on how you like your screenplays, derivative or wholly original.
Of course, there isn’t a lot of wholly original work being done out there. But while The Deflowering of Eva van End doesn’t really break new ground in the story department, its visuals are sharp, with the aforementioned editing and camera work, and there’s excellent production and costume design. The bright colors—in particular a coat that exchanges owners throughout the movie—contrast the dull lives of the van End’s.
Still, would that it were more entertaining. There isn’t a lot that you won’t see coming, but the cast is game, the direction is sharp, and in the end, no one is really too badly damaged. Except the rabbit. But someone has to pay the price, right?
THE DEFLOWERING OF EVA VAN END
Directed by Michiel ten Horn
With Vivian Dierickx, Rafael Gareisen and Tomer Pawlicki
Jean Cocteau Cinema