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The river is empty for no more than a second. Then, very very slowly, a container ship glides into view. It fills the water with its mirror image, and then, equally slowly, it disappears from view. This is the start of 'Nina' (2001), a poetic film by Jeroen Kooijmans, in cooperation with Roy Cerpac. Nina consists of brief, documentary-like shots of large and small boats and the activity on board. People scrubbing, hosing, shovelling, sweeping, dragging hoses about, or carrying out repairs. Water plays an important role: people take it from the river, use it for washing, play in it, and eventually empty it back overboard, dirt and all. Except for the thump of a heavy ship or the screech of a seagull, the film is silent. This makes the activities of the people o… board seem mysterious; their water ballet is like a secret code by which they give signs to each other that are incomprehensible to the outsider. Moreover, Kooijmans has mixed staged images into his film, although you do not pick up on this straight away. Two boys in swimming trunks are sitting on the river bank like male sirens; someone jumps off a boat into the water, fully dressed; a man is sitting on a ship's railing, making up his face in a hand mirror. On the bank of the river, a woman wearing a scarf is looking out over the water. She is standing with her back towards the camera. A boat glides past in full sail with sailors in the rigging. She remains there motionless, while the wind plays with the wispy hair framing her face. Is this Nina? Is she awaiting the return of a loved one? Kooijmans and Cerpac leave this answer undecided, without creating a feeling of irritation. What is left is a breathtaking film.
Netherlands Media Art Institute, Merel Bem Read more...