Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The Stars: Alex van Warmerdam, Gene Bervoets, Annet Malherbe, Eva van de Wijdeven, Marlies Heuer, Gijs Naber, Marwan Kenzari
The Story: As Emma Blank lives out her final days in her secluded seaside villa, her household ’servants’ are tested by their mistress’ increasing irrational and ludicrous demands. Cruel, fickle and self-indulgent, Emma Blank is possessed with making her underlings carry out her every whim, no matter how bizarre or foolish.
We soon discover that her domestic help are none other than her very own family members, who only put up with the repetitious humiliations on two presumptions. Firstly, that the insufferable Miss Blank only has a short span left and secondly, that they stand to inherit her considerable wealth upon her passing. When both suppositions are upturned, the disgruntled staff plots their revenge.
The Buzz: Written and directed by Dutch darling Alex Van Warmerdam, this pitch black comedy picked up several awards and nominations at the Nederlands and Venice film festivals in 2009. Warmerdam is noted for playing bit roles in his own films and here he steals his own show as Theo – Emma Blank’s elder brother and family dog. No, that wasn’t a typo.
inSing says: Obsidian in its disturbing humour, The Last Days of Emma Blank (De laatste dagen van Emma Blank) is farce at its most perverse and wonderful. Consider that Emma’s estranged husband is her butler and that her sister is her cook - and that the butler and the cook are also sleeping together. Meanwhile her daughter is the maid who just so happens to be carrying on an incestuous affair with her cousin, also Emma’s gardener and nephew. Oh and yes, the role of the family dog is forced upon Theo, Emma’s own brother.
Everybody plays their part dutifully under the pretence that they will soon be handsomely compensated, including man-dog Theo, who defecates in the garden and eats leftovers. As you try to wrap your head onto that warped family dynamic, there are lesser but no less amusing abasements occurring all the time in between all this, all due Emma’s power-mad insanity. There is no sympathy to be had for Emma’s tyranny obviously but neither can the audience sympathise with her staff of relatives. They are all revealed to be greedy and morally bankrupt themselves.
Based on Warmerdam’s own stage production, the film features a fabulous ensemble that plays the most ridiculous of scenarios with the straightest of faces. Besides not chuckling whenever he has to dry hump a random family member, Warmerdam also does a solid job behind the scenes of telling a fascinating tale depicting the most spiteful people behaving ever so badly.