The Netherlands’ Sander Burger directs his second feature, the idyllic-life-gone-bad, “Hunting and Sons,” screening at this year’s New Directors/New Film Series.
“Newlyweds and childhood sweethearts Tako and Sandra lead a cute suburban life. Tako relocated from the city to marry Sandra and runs the family bike business; she seems happy working at a small employment agency. Both the couple and their apartment look ripped from this season’s Ikea catalogue—everything is perfectly lovely. Then things get even better: Sandra is pregnant. But the good news starts a small crack in the adorable façade that grows as the characters pull at it. Tako decides to take this opportunity to grow up, while Sandra, suffering from an eating disorder, begins to slim down – and the pretty scenery of their life starts to fall away. Panicked about the future, Tako takes increasingly drastic measures. In his second feature film, director Sander Burger paints a sharp and trenchant portrait of the pitfalls of happiness.” [Synopsis courtesy of ND/NF]
“Hunting and Sons”
Director: Sander Burger
Cast: Dragan Bakema, Maria Kraakman, Noël Keulen, Celia Nufaar
Writer: Dragan Bakema, Sander Burger, Maria Kraakman
Burger introduces his globetrotting past…
My name is Sander Burger (officially Alexander), born in 1975 in Ivory Coast. My father was a civil engineer and worked abroad. After Africa we travelled to Indonesia and Iraq. I was eight when my family moved back to Holland. Film is not something I was raised with. Actually I always planned to become a geologist. I studied Geology for two years in University. The reason why I attended filmschool is quite vague, it was just a very strong feeling which came over me from one day to another: I want to make films.
And on coming to the film’s morbid topic, working with the film’s stars and the challenges…
The main impetus was derived from a family tragedy which unfolded just around the corner from where I live. A police officer killed his wife and three children and then shot himself. The children were pupils at my girlfriend’s school, she’s a teacher. Nobody around them had seen it coming. The media portrayed him as evil incarnate, but he wasn’t. Since that horrible incident I almost daily pass the house, a cute typical Dutch house from the beginning of the nineteenth century, and every time I wonder what circumstances could make me do something like that.
I contacted Dragan and Maria, two actors I made my first feature with and a couple in real life, and asked them if they wanted to go for a soul search. Our assumption was that basically, given the wrong combination of stress and setbacks, anyone could get to that point. So we asked ourselves the question: what would have to happen for us to go that far.
We are all in a stage of our lives where we consider having children or being young parents. In that time I just became a father for the first time. Pregnancy comes with a lot of uncertainties. As a man, you can only support your woman up to a certain point, but in fact all responsibility lies with her. If she doesn’t take good care of herself, you’re pretty much powerless as a man. It’s impossible to check on someone 24 hours a day. I asked Dragan how far he would go if Maria was pregnant and not taking good care of herself. All the way, was his answer.
We did not want to make a film about a woman with an eating disorder. It is merely a layer of foundation, a catalyst serving to put the real problems in their relationship on edge. This is why we have tried to keep it in the background. We wanted to make a film that would serve as a mirror for the audience. We hope that keeping the story fairly accessible will allow the viewer to keep relating to Tako until quite far into the film. Exactly how far depends on the viewer.
Burger on the film’s appeal…
The film is very much about keeping up appearances, even to your beloved ones. Up to a point everybody does this. Therefore, to a certain extent, the relationship of Tako and Sandra is recognisable for everybody. This is also how the film works; by keeping a certain distance in the beginning an audience can project a part of itself on to the characters. This way you become an accomplice of Tako’s actions. This makes the last part of the film quite confronting.
Down the pipeline for Burger…
I’m working on a scenario about the life of Youri Egorov, the famous Russian master pianist who fled from the USSR in 1976 and lived in Amsterdam untill his early death in 1988.