A steampunk fantasy of filmmaking, mystery and charm.
I was blissfully unaware of the existence of Dick Tuinder’s film Winterland until the DVD popped through the post. Intrigued by the unique packaging (imagine that cover image spread over five sides, with text – in Dutch – and illustrations), I sat down to watch the film with no idea about what I would be seeing. But what a revelation it turned out to be!
The twisting plot centres around the production of a steam punk-like science fiction film that is channelling Jules Verne, Georges Melies and Guy Maddin, a green-screen epic called Project Icarus, where a typically Victorian band of adventurers travel to the distant planet Proxima Terra, only to fall foul of an infection that forces them to speak uncomfortable truths before turning into seven rocks. It’s a strange little tale that would make a fascinating feature in its own right.
This odd tale is intercut with production scenes – director Dick Tuinder (playing himself) confuses lead actress Tara Elders (playing Tara Elders playing Elizabeth Dubois), while hapless assistant director Reinier (Stijn Westenend) gets into a flap trying to hold things together. It starts to get odd when Elders meets Sally Dewinter (Kiriko Mechanicus), an enigmatic child who carries a suitcase that holds mysteries that no-one can understand, and is a cartoon character brought to life. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast take a stroll in the woods where they become lost in an increasingly surreal world of oddball characters and cartoonish imagery.
Subtitled ‘A True Story That Never Happened’, Winterland is a remarkably lovely film, slipping almost unnoticed from the reality of the film set into the strangeness of the world of Sally Dewinter and her Oz-like journey to Winterland. There’s a strange sweetness about this film, and while nothing much actually happens, the journey it takes us on is a rather nice one. This lack of action is, seemingly, the central theme behind the character of Sally Dewinter, who also turns up in two short films on this disc, significantly titled The Garden of Nothing and Most Things Never Happen – both films expanding the philosophy that the things that are not there are more important than the things that are. The two shorts are a nice lead-in to this story, and with Sally, director Tuinder has created a charming, inquisitive, serious, joyful and philosophical character that I’d like to see returning in future projects.
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