In the Hut of Mr van den Brink – European Independent Film Festival 2020 – Film Review

Its title seems so literal but this may be slightly misleading as it certainly does not provide any preparation for the intense, adrenalin fuelled, anxiety ridden journey within In the Hut of Mr van den Brink (Im Häuschen von Herrn van den Brink). The film featured within Day 2 of the European Independent Film Festival as another example of the high quality of the films appearing this year. It is also one of my film suggestions in my post about 10 films to watch in the festival.

Fast paced in style and depicting the chaotic lives of Marcello and Heiko, the film appears to pass judgement on these two protagonists from the outset. They are instantly established, through a roadside café setting, to be petty criminals who are drinking in the afternoon, making offensive slurs towards elderly men and are even overheard describing fleecing a man. The film’s deliberate direction is therefore outlining the unsympathetic nature of these individuals and does so with flair and minimal dialogue.

Due to such skilful structural development from director Björn Renner, who treats the audience with respect by providing sufficient material to enable independent thought, it is easy to anticipate that Marcello and Heiko will fall foul of the law. Employing quick cuts and very sharp editing for a high speed, frenzied ‘cops and robbers’ chase, In the Hut of Mr van den Brink adopts the style of an action film with riveting effect within its short length.

Renner’s technique in tackling the direction of the film is worthy of praise. On the face of it, In the Hut of Mr van den Brink appears to operate with a linear narrative however via the use of flashbacks and psychological devices, it becomes apparent that there are unreliable narrators and several twists in the narrative.

In the Hut of Mr van den Brink darkens in tone further with the reveal of the eponymous Mr van den Brink as the film descends into a violent spiral. The cinematography and editing during such moments impressively create a tense, nail biting environment. The use of shadow and light replicate interrogation scenes to chilling effect, amplifying the tension and horror, which will certainly draw the audience further into the ‘fairytale’ presented within In the Hut of Mr van den Brink.

The hut within In the Hut of Mr Van den Brink
The hut within In the Hut of Mr Van den Brink

The character development is impressively unveiled in a fragmented manner and will therefore leave the audience wanting more. Each character seems morally ambiguous and as such it is difficult to choose sides which is further evidence of the excellent direction from Renner and the superb acting.

A sense of dread lingers throughout In the Hut of Mr van den Brink which remains captivating with its Shutter Island inspired denouement. Its ending is unexpected but fitting and remains open ended, which poses even more questions about the earlier scenes. In the Hut of Mr van den Brink is certainly an impressive, suspense filled film that will linger in your consciousness for a few days.

Within the festival’s Q&A segment, Renner indicated that the film is based on a true story where a man had killed three of his tenants without any remorse. Renner also mentioned that the premise of In the Hut of Mr van den Brink is the examination of the notions of fate and freedom. He questions within the film whether we are truly free which is an extremely intriguing philosophical concept to watch.

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