Spare Bedroom (1970)
Frans Zwartjes is one of those filmmakers whom I did not know of until I came to theauteurs back in early 2010. I can safely say that he’s my favorite filmmaker that I’ve discovered via this website. My first exposure to Zwartjes’ work was when I was going through short films on UBUWEB and happened upon Visual Training and some other shorts. I was not quick to watch everything I could find, in fact, I only watched Pentimento this past summer.
Perhaps my favorite part of Zwartjes’ filmmaking (other than the beautiful black and white in most of his earlier films) is the way he captures his actors’ faces. When I think of Zwartjes, the first image that pops into my head is Moniek Toebosch’s laughing in Audition. She is so beautiful, though wearing very stark makeup. Her lipstick and hair the blackest of black, serving as a contrast to her light complexion.
The first film I’ve chosen for Zwartjes is Spare Bed-Room. I feel that this film captures the essence of what it is I love so much about Zwartjes, the way he captures faces, the surreal movements of his characters, and, of course, the beautiful black and white.
The version of Spare Bed-Room I would prefer to be watched is the version I uploaded with my vimeo account: http://www.vimeo.com/14488233 (password: mubi). The rip is taken from my Zwartjes DVD, The Great Cinema Magician, which is an out of print import from Netherlands. I also recognize that the true importance of the cup is to promote lesser known directors to audiences that may be less familiar with their work. That said, I hope you all enjoy what you see from Zwartjes, and if you don’t enjoy it, I hope you can appreciate the beauty on the screen.
I’ll be sure to post more as the days go by.
We need more information in your introduction. Where is Zwartjes from? What tradition does he fit into, or approach? What films characterized his career?
Zwartjes is from Netherlands.
Here is a brief description of Zwartjes’ work, in relation to his time and methodology, as found on both his MUBI profile and the external website, mikehoolboom.com:
In 1968 Zwartjes was one of the first Dutch visual artists to make use of film: initially as a record of his performances, but quite soon after as an independent medium, perfectly suited to his way of creating visual art. Zwartjes did everything himself: camera, sound, editing and even the developing in the laboratory. He would work with non-professional actors among his friends, and filmed in and around his own house. What he really preferred was editing his film “in the camera,” by switching the camera on and off while shooting. “My own motor system determined the film style,” Zwartjes stated in an interview. “It never occurred to me to wonder: can this shot follow on after this one? If you start wondering about that you should be looking for another job straight away.” At the Vrije Academie in The Hague, where he started teaching in 1971, and at the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, Zwartjes wa regarded as an extremely liberal teacher who seldom prescribed his students exactly what to do. Almost without exception his ex-students call him a major influence on their development.”
According to the product description of the aforementioned The Great Cinema Magigican DVD, his “best known works” include Pentimento, Living, and In Extremo, the latter of which I have not seen nor is it on MUBI.
Nice. Interesting stuff.
In Extremo is something I’d love to see as well and his 60-minute Pentimento is something I’m craving to watch sooner or later.
That being said, Spare Bedroom might not be the one and only Zwartjes film that entails with my appreciation for his dreary…amour (?) but it’s one of my most beloved films in his collection of lost and unmasked souls refusing to conform, endlessly seeking bodily communication and rejoice.
Toebosch and Manders are the alpha and omega of this silent tableaux of stares, completing each other’s silent questions and answers. It works as a marvelous introductory piece to Swartjes fascinatingly exhausting “romp” of arms, hands, movements, facial expressions, predating the apocalyptic film link which is none other than Bedsitters, with Swartjes expanding his architectural suffocation in almost every corner of the house, not just a singular room.
Below, you will see a gallery of stills from my Round 1 pick, Spare Bed-Room by Frans Zwartjes
These stills showcase Zwartjes’ use of black and white, as well as the way in which he captures the human face. One thing that many people I know often comment on, in relation to Hi-Definition television, is that you can “see people’s pores” or “see the players sweat.” In Spare Bed-Room and many of Zwartjes’ other films, he captures the inconsistencies and “flaws” of his actors’ faces, which essentially exemplifies the truth of individual beauty. The actors in the film are Christiaan Manders, Nelleke, and Moniek Toebosch. Manders is the male in the film, Nelleke is the actress with the longer, straight, dark hair, and Moniek is the actress with shorter, dark hair.
And, for those of you who haven’t yet seen the film and are interested, it is available to stream on Vimeo here: http://www.vimeo.com/14488233 (password: mubi)
Watch Spare Bed-Room on VimeoSpare Bed-Room on MUBI
Since all of my videos on Vimeo were deleted this morning, a stream of Spare Bed-Room can be found on UBUWEB. Though not the same quality, it’s the same film and ought to do the trick.
Watch Spare Bed-Room on UBUWEB
Of all the new names in this year’s Cup, I’m intrigued by this one the most.
The first Frans Zwartjes I’d seen was Spectator, and I was quite stunned by the strange and unsettling eroticism resulting from the manner in which he captured human faces and skin. I loved Spare Bed-Room as well. Looking forward to seeing more..
I’m always glad to discover new director’s in these cups, and this is one for me. While the descriptions of the film sound almost too close to my most disliked film from the last cup, Les hautes solitudes. The stills suggest these films may go much deeper.
I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone for their support of Zwartjes in this cup.
You can view more of his films on UBUWEB, or you can contact me for better streaming versions. I also uploaded A Fan onto YouTube, which I don’t believe is on UBUWEB.
While I haven’t completely settled on which films I’m going to pick next, it’s very likely that both Spectator and Audition will make appearances. Audition is probably my favorite Zwartjes film and one of my favorite performances from Moniek Toebosch.
Spare Bed-Room (1970)
Great to see Frans Zwartjes in the cup. Interesting side fact is that Zwartjes is also a musician, painter, makes sculptures, drawings and builds violins. He more or less retreated from making films for as far as I know. Two of my current teachers at film school studied under Zwartjes in Den Haag and you can see Zwartjes’ influence on how they deal with space well. Zwartjes is still highly rated in Holland and seen as one of the most influential Dutch filmmakers in Dutch film history. Only recently he seems to be getting some more attention abroad, since his films have been available online.
It’s difficult to place Zwartjes in a particular movement of filmmakers because he was more or less a trendsetter. His teachings have inspired many experimental filmmakers in the 80’s in Holland, but before him there were few experimental filmmakers. One could argue the early works of Ivens and later filmmakers of the documentary movement were experimental films, but not in the manner that Zwartjes did. Only one filmmaker that may have influenced Zwartjes that springs to my mind is Adriaan Ditvoorst who also shot his films in a similar manner with friends, but unlike Zwartjes his succes was not recognised and he killed himself.
My favourite Zwartjes film is Living, which is about a couple (Zwartjes and his wife) visiting their new house and discussing how to arrange it. (while there isn’t any dialogue, like in most of his films) The empty house, bizarre soundtrack and extremely virtuous and claustrophobic camerawork in which he shoots himself and his surroundings make it one of my favourite experimental films.
“living” is one of the best things that i’ve ever seen, i’m happy to see zwartjes being discussed!
i didn’t know that the dvd went out of print – i had lost one of the discs for it a while ago and was going to have to buy another one (though i guess i wouldn’t have been able to), but luckily i found it last week while organizing my dvd shelves.
I have selected Audition and Spectator as my Directors’ Cup Rounds 2 and 3 picks, respectively.
Both films are embedded above in higher quality than found on UBUWEB.
Thanks for watching!
The Round 2 pick for Zwartjes, Audition, is available to watch just five posts above!
Reminder… Watch Audition here, now seven posts above!
Alright, guys, Zwartjes is now 1-1… Let’s see what we can do in Round 3!!!
You can watch Spectator, the Round 3 pick, only 8 posts above!
Watch the Directors’ Cup Round 3, Match 18 film by Frans Zwartjes here!
This film is near and dear to my heart and I hope you all enjoy it!
This is an amazing film. One of Zwartjes’ best. If he doesn’t go to round 4 I’ll burn myself down.
Don’t do it Jose!!!