David’s Art Reviews

Recensie over Rick zijn documentaire door David Llewellyn Dodds

Anyone who has learned another language, and, especially, lived where it is spoken, has probably discovered a number of gems and treats, some nationally known, beloved for generations, others something like well-kept secrets even at home, which, insofar as they are language artefacts, whether book or film, poem or song, or even turn-of-phrase, are not only unknown, but unavailable to share outside their mother tongue.

The film, Rick: Tussen hype en waarheid [ Rick: Between hype and truth] (2008), is, frustratingly, to a certain, significant degree, like that: ‘shut up in Dutch’, so to put it, shut away from most of the world. Only to a certain degree, of course, since it is a film, and a film not only about an artist, but about works of art. So, it can speak to the eye, again and again, despite (if I may indulge what, from one level of understanding,  cannot but seem a gruesome expression) ‘having its tongue cut out’.

The thing that would most help, is a set of subtitles – but I am not going to essay that here (or, probably, anywhere else, in the near future). But I can try, not murdering to dissect, but (with a glance at the mischievous Mark Antony as Shakespeare ‘realizes’ him) embracing  the ‘victim’ to give the wound a tongue of sorts.

When half the interplay of word and image falls away, one cannot form a just impression of the quality of such a work. It is obviously not ‘glitzy’; it is not, in various senses one could think of, ‘polished’ (and these are no negative remarks), but can the non-hearer tell how craftsmanly it is, how quietly, relaxedly, yet confidently so? How good, how substantial, the interviewing is, rests with the words  – and disappears with them. So, too, how that explicit interviewing is interwoven with the visual portraiture – what shots , what sequences are chosen, and how they are edited. But perhaps these film-making strands of the whole fabric not only appear to the attentive eye, but speak.

In any case, adding a little reflective annotation will do no harm. Is it too far-fetched, or might we see, not only practical convenience, but play with the genre of ‘A day in the life of…’, in the construction of the film? And, even, venturing beyond that, a play with (neo-)classical dramatic conventions of unity of time, place, and action?  This is an interview during a day spent at an organic farm, ‘t Helder, and around the nearby village, Winterswijk: the farm where the visitors’ centre, a multifunctional space (if that is not too ghastly an expression)that is also an exhibition-space is to be found (much the richer for clearly  being a sort of converted barn) , housing the retrospective exhibition of Rick’s work which is also very consciously an appreciation and recommendation of his friends’ conscientious organic stock-rearing for meat production.

A ‘retrospective’ always sums up (selectively, however generously), and, in its latest work, looks to the unknown future. And, if every moment, viewed in a certain way, is at least potentially a ‘turning point’, for everyone alive, such a day is that more pronouncedly, however much the further story of life and work upon which it opens, is, to ‘viewer’ as well as ‘participants’, unknown. Only time will tell: in the full sense of that familiar phrase. (Not that I am going to venture on an ‘update’, here, as to what time may or may not already seem to have told since the day of filming some two years ago.) But this moving (as in, ‘moving picture’, in the first place: however appropriate the other sense which immediately springs to mind is, too), interactive portrait, is not only occurring between past and future, and recording reflection upon that, but is entitled Between hype and truth.

I think it is fair to say, not only with reference to this film, that, in our variously and multifariously ‘hype-rich’ world, Rick van der  Linden is, to put it with perhaps unfashionable simplicity, concerned about truth and beauty; perhaps it is not inaccurate even to add, more about the beauty of truth, than ‘beauty’ in any more limitedly ‘aesthetic’ sense. (This is not, for better or worse,  the place to embark on attempting wider or deeper remarks on that concern for ‘truth’.)

But, one could as readily say, if anything characterizes Rick, it is playfulness: earnest playfulness, yes, but all sorts of playfulness, in fact. Playfulness with conventions, playfulness with (so to put it) the conventions of unconventionality, with images, and ‘image’, ideas, and ideals, with ec- and with (if the word exists, in the sense suggested here) ‘centricity’, playfulness  with flamboyance, extravagance, exuberance (to play, myself, on that prepositional phrase). But, what dangers of ‘hype’ lurk (for example, in particular) here?

Alas, that the Dutchless viewer will have eyes but no word-sharp ears to go by, in pondering finely possible answers to that question – not that all depends upon its outcome; far from it; yet it is one that hovers, and properly enough, in our atmosphere generally, even when not pointed by a title.

To what extent can such viewers have a sense (or test my judgement) of how (so to put it) ‘journalistically’ well the filmmaker, Gert Jan Breukelaar has worked, here: for example, neither hiding, nor, in any of various possible senses, exploiting, vulnerability? Not ‘hyping’, not ‘scoring off’, but skillfully portraying – with a fine seasoning of a kind of friendly teasing. (The film was made on Rick van der Linden’s behalf – something clear enough from the text of the opening  – but ,as I understand, with the way it was made, the filmmaking itself  – ‘journalistic’, scripting, and editorial choices, and so on – being left to the discernment,  artistry, and judgement of the filmmaker. I fear I am not expert enough to say confidently how far this does or does not fit the description, ‘documercial’, but I find the ‘docu’ of it impressive.)