The Dutch auteurs latest is a bit divisive but worth it
NR. 10 is the latest film by Dutch auteur Alex van Warmerdam (BORGMAN) that will be released in theaters December 2nd with a digital release shortly thereafter on December 9th. The film is the director’s 10th film and follows Günter (Tom Dewispelaere) a single dad and stage actor who’s haunted by the mother who orphaned him as a young child. When we meet him in full mid-life crisis mode, he is having an affair with Isabel (Anniek Pheifer), the beautiful wife of the director of his latest play and questioning everything around him. It’s as the melodrama of that affair which begins to unravel his world as it erodes the more realistic veneer of the narrative exposing its more absurdist underpinnings. This subplot has the Catholic church orchestrating Günter’s downfall, while his rather odd duck daughter Lizzy (Frieda Barnhard) lurks in the periphery documenting it.
While pontificating about life and religion, the film keeps one foot firmly planted in the absurd, slowly laying the groundwork for a third act swing that may or may not land for you. I think it’s something that definitely appeared to be on shaky ground for the first few minutes for me, until the final moments of the film, when everything sort of locked into place. This works in part thanks to the performances that have our characters sometimes trying to play it straight, only to lean hard into the odder elements complemented with a script that is perfectly balanced so as to not topple over into the madness too soon. This also works thanks to the first act that is more trenched in being a simple melodrama about an affair between the two quirky actors. There is definitely some solid character work to be had there as well, which somehow makes you more invested in the somewhat unlikable Günter.
NR. 10 is a pop punk melodrama that has the band setting fire to their stage at the end of their set. Depending on your taste, your mileage will definitely vary with this one since that third act is going to be divisive as Hell. While I did enjoy it, I was more than content with the first act drama that had the director from Günter’s play giving all of his lines to a bumbling elderly man that couldn’t even remember them just to spite the narcissistic actor. It was a setup very reminiscent of Quentin Dupieux in both execution and style. The humor is delivered with a dramatic deadpan that locks in the intent here by van Warmerdam. NR. 10 surprisingly leaves a profoundly impressive weight on the audience as the credits roll and it’s something I think that demands a second viewing as the director pulls the rug out from under you completely in the third act. This will no doubt frustrate some and delight others forcing you to re-evaluate everything you just witnessed.