The Fury

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The Fury (aka De Helleveeg in the original Dutch) gives Hannah Hoekstra something to do. Impressive in any number of films and TV shows, Hoekstra has at this point in her career (2016, she’s 29) played sexy young things with attitude and varying levels of coquettishness. And that’s just what she plays here, with a twist, and with a chance to show there’s more in her bag than we might have thought.

She plays a young woman called Tiny, a working-class girl in a dead-end job in 1960s Netherlands whose life consists of her family trying to marry her off while in the interim she works for them as a skivvy. The local men gather round like bees to nectar, but there is something about Tiny that’s off-putting. Her attitude, for one. She is hostile to suitors and and sarcastic towards everyone else except her nephew, Albert, with whom she shares, and overshares, everything – from what she thinks of her latest beau to risqué info-gobbets about the penile sheaths worn by the natives in Papua New Guinea to her problems in the menstrual department. Tiny bleeds. She also has two front teeth missing. The two are connected, it will later turn out.

There is also the whispered rumour that Tiny cannot have children, about which much is made in this small community, at what must be the last point when this sort of thing was a make-or-break factor in a young woman’s life.

From here writer/director André van Duren’s film takes Tiny forwards through the decades, in a series of jumps introduced by the same chapter marking – Tiny getting onto and hanging off a child’s climbing frame with Albert. En route it’s a case of Tiny’s relationships. With Koos (Robert de Hoog), the sap who eventually marries her. With Albert (played by four different actors), to whom she is always too close. With her difficult sister, Hanny (Hadewych Minis). And with her disapproving father (Gijs Scholten van Aschat) and mother (Anneke Blok).

It is simultaneously a story of thwarted working-class ambition, and is in many respects like a British kitchen sinker from the early 1960s. But there’s also a detective thriller element. What made Tiny so angry? And eventually van Duren and co-writer Adrianus van der Heijden tell us, in a bracketed-off leap back through the years to when Tiny was a girlish, coltish 14 year old, and then it grimly and matter-of-factly tells us a bit more, until the source of “the fury” is finally revealed.

Tiny in late middle age
Still furious: Tiny

It isn’t pretty viewing, but it is incredibly powerful, and the explanation for everything, while high up on the list of possibles if you’ve seen this sort of thing before, still arrives as if from left-field, so well is it handled.

There’s obviously some de-ageing going on when the 29-year-old Hoekstra is playing the 14-year-old Tiny, but just a waft, and it’s Hoekstra’s girlishness that really convinces. Similarly, when Tiny is 62, smoking a cigarette and still angry, it’s Hoekstra’s thick movements that make the portrait convincing, though obviously hair, make-up and clothes all help the elfin actor pull it off.

There are two movements in this film. One is the straightforward progress of time, the other is the far more tangential and scattered way events echo down the decades. Actions have consequences but they burst out, like a sofa losing its stuffing, from a weak seam, not always from the expected spot. Albert, we see, as the decades advance, has also been affected by what has affected Tiny, and winds up a sour middle-aged man. The iniquities of the older generation are visited upon the children (and nephews) even unto the third or fourth generation, as the Bible almost puts it.

To talk about the look of the film seems almost insulting, given how well it explores one particular psyche, but it is also very well handled – moving from the more cohesive 1960s of a country and a class of people who may all live in similar looking houses but are moving forwards, ever forwards, to the more individualistic 21st century when things have come to a stop, individually and socially.

It’s not really what The Fury is about, but it is all there in the background. Leaving Hannah Hoekstra to do her thing in the foreground. It is quite a thing.

The Fury (De Helleveeg) – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2023

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