Friday 28 January 2022

Met mes (Sam de Jong, 2022)

Back in 2015, Sam de Jong made quite a splash with his debut feature Prins; four years later, he moved into English language cinema with New York story Goldie.  Although de Jong's irreverent take on Dumas' De drie musketiers—a TV movie shot in a mere ten days in German-speaking Belgium—premiered on NPO 3 just last month, his third and latest theatrical feature, the Dutch language Met mes, has already been unveiled.  Marrying an eye-popping colour scheme with inventive sound design, de Jong's new film successfully navigates several tonal shifts before arriving at its conclusion, and it is to the writer–director's credit that proceedings never become too predictable.  With any luck and the right marketing, Met mes should find an audience beyond those who encounter it at the 51st International Film Festival Rotterdam, where it's currently screening.

Met mes focuses mainly on two characters: Eveline (Hadewych Minis) is a television presenter who has just quit her job in order to make a hard-hitting documentary exploring various social issues, and it is while shooting this that she crosses paths with teenager Yousef (Shahine El-Hamus), who acts as a distraction so his friend can steal Eveline's expensive VHS camera.  When her insurance company refuses to pay out on the grounds that the crime hasn't been reported, Eveline goes to the police station; there, she proceeds to give a statement, and as Yousef was the only one of the thieves that she actually saw, she describes the young man as best she can, but embellishes her story—as per the film's title—to include the detail that she was threatened at knifepoint.  Naturally, the mention of such a weapon sees the matter escalated, and the police soon track down Yousef who, while not exactly innocent, certainly isn't guilty of a crime of this nature. 

Amidst all the garish visuals and witty sight gags (the one involving the police officer who takes Eveline's statement is a real standout), de Jong hands his audience an interesting dilemma: while we're presented with a victim and a perpetrator, the hard truth is that both of these characters are in the wrong—so who should we side with?  Despite his ill-judged involvement in the theft of the camera, Yousef comes across as a reasonably steady character, although the same description could equally apply to Eveline if we overlook her dishonesty when it came to filing the police report; neither Eveline nor Yousef are the worst people one might encounter, yet the viewer is forced to constantly reevaluate the pair's actions (and their consequences) as the situation grows more serious.

Curiously, Met mes recalls another IFFR 2022 title in the form of Bruno Dumont's France; each film sees a famous TV personality—one who is quite happy to manipulate real events to make for "better" television—begin to unravel in the wake of an unfortunate encounter with a young man of north African heritage.  Just as France's eponymous news anchor eventually seems to lose her bearings as far as the line between verity and fabrication is concerned, Met mes' Eveline attempts to absorb Yousef's crime and its aftermath into the documentary she was making when her camera was stolen.  But no matter what is going on at any given point in Met mes, Sam de Jong's audacity and energy go a long way towards sweeping the audience along for what proves to be a highly entertaining diversion, one that displays a fine sense of the absurd.  

Darren Arnold

Images: IFFR