Little Sister Movie Review

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Subscribe Kim van Kooten
The Netherlands' strangest home video comes back to roost in Little Sister, the audicious debut by Dutch filmmaker Robert Jan Westdijk. Shot entirely via handheld video camera, Little Sister outdoes contemporaries like The Blair Witch Project by making a faux documentary that looks real, acts with sophistication and intelligence, and creeps you out with subtle innuendo that doesn't rely on schlock horror gags.

In a tale reminiscent of Peeping Tom and especially the Dogme 95 film The Celebration, the video-obsessed Martijn (played/voiced by three different actors, none of whom are virtually ever seen on camera) pays a surprise visit to his sister (a radiant Kim van Kooten, in her first film) on the day of her 20th birthday. As soon becomes apparent, Martijn has a bit of a chip on his shoulder -- probably something to do with his incestuous lust for his kid sis when she was just nine years old. Seen in frequent flashbacks, it's unclear what their relationship was really like as children, or even who wanted what -- or whom. Over the course of an hour and a half, we are invited to somewhat relive the past, and figure out this twisted bit of history.

Not that Little Sister is particularly titillating or sick. Rather, the film comes off as a quite simple home movie, told by a brother who truly loves his sister, enough so to trick her into dumping her boyfriend so he can get more time with her himself -- but the extent of that love we just don't really know.

The film's conceit and its beauty lie in the recursive nature of its story. The making of Martijn's documentary about his sister is the very film we're watching, as it occurs. Yet late in the movie, Martijn's videotape gets stolen, thus eliminating the existence of what we've just watched. It's a strange puzzle of logic that makes the picture all the richer, and it's enhanced even further by Westdijk's style at telling the subject matter and van Kooten's ingenue-like ability before the camera. At times, though, the use of video works against Westdijk, as the low resolution and washed-out lighting make some scenes difficult to see clearly.

No matter, if you're a fan of psychological thrillers or Scandinavian mysteries like The Kingdom, this newly-released video is worth seeking out.

Aka Zusje.

Hey, sis.

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Subscribe Kim van Kooten

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Little Sister Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: NR, 1996

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