Directed by Mijke de Jong
Opens November 5, Film Forum

In Stages, Dutch director Mijke de Jong's tensile family microdrama, the camera gets closer to its three main subjects than they can hope to get to each other. Over the course of a series of dinners at bougie ethnic restaurants (with each other and various confidants), recently divorced couple Martin (Marcel Musters) and Roos (Elsie de Brauw) are shot in unremitting, lash-grazing close-ups, piling blather between them like bulwarks as their screen-swallowing faces shout out a different story. Martin, a bellicose, hypomanic columnist, agrees to these dinners with his ex ostensibly to discuss the fate of their teenage son, Isaac (Stijn Koomen), a sullen stringbean who has taken up swordplay and a relatively benign form of breaking-and-entering. Martin accuses the fretful Roos of using their son as a pretense, and he may be right; both are too self-absorbed to access even their own suffering as much more than a talking point. De Jong's technique of filming conversations with the camera latched onto one character for minutes at a time is both disorienting and almost suffocatingly intimate. The mutual contempt of Martin and Roos, in particular, is presented as intimacy writ toxic; they are at once total strangers and completely disgusted by how well they know each other. Their final exchange, after the funeral of a friend, brokers some softness and some breathing room: A two-shot has never looked more like a reprieve.


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