Friday, December 02, 2022

Alex van Warmerdam’s Nr. 10

Imagine a stage production as strained with petty jealousies as Noises Off, but without the comedy. Actually, you don’t have to imagine, because Alex van Warmerdam provided it, but when things get ugly on-stage, it is all according to the Church’s plans. That would be the Roman Catholic Church. This must mean Pope Francis is in on the conspiracy too. Frankly, it all becomes a bit of a muddle in van Warmerdam’s Nr. 10, which opens today in New York.

Gunter is having an affair with his co-star Isabel, who is married to the director of the play they are rehearsing. Unfortunately, he discovers their betrayal, thanks to Marius, a co-star who resents the abuse Gunter’s character heaps on his own. Things really escalate during the premiere—so much so Gunter will have to take some time off.

So far, everything has gone according to the shadowy monsignor’s plan. He knows the truth about Gunter, including why the actor only has one lung. He only just learned, because he has never been sick a single day in his life, but his grown daughter Lizzy discovered she had the same anatomical irregularity during a check-up—her first ever.

A lot of critics are calling
Nr. 10 “mind-blowing,” but it really isn’t. They are just offering clapter for the film’s slams on the Catholic Church. Fine, lets see van Warmerdam give similar treatment to Shia Islam, a religious doctrine that is currently killing young people on the streets of Tehran.

Yet, somewhat perversely, Mandela Wee Wee almost totally undercuts van Warmerdam’s program, because he makes Father Innocence, the Monsignor’s assistant, the most appealing character in the film. The ultra-deadpan Tom Dewispelaere sort of works as Gunter, but the film’s didacticism works against everyone.

Nr. 10
is quite disappointing, because the one-darned-thing-after-another farce of his previous film, Schneider vs. Bax was drolly amusing. In contrast, everything in this film feels too mannered and too forced. It misfires in ways comparable to the flat, uncompelling Killing of a Sacred Deer (some might consider that comparison a compliment, but its not). Not recommended, Nr. 10 opens today (12/2) at the Lower Manhattan Alamo Drafthouse.