Klokkenluider is awaiting a UK release date.
Neil Maskell has worked with more than a handful of Britain’s independent film directors over the last two decades, from Ben Wheatley to Paul Andrew Williams, Steve McQueen, Nick Love and Marc Munden, to name a few. So it’s safe to say he’s had quite the education in independent filmmaking. After a 12-year gap from his short film Shitkicker, Maskell has returned to the directing world with his darkly comedic thriller, Klokkenluider (Dutch for whistleblower).
Initially, Klokkenluider unfurls slowly as we’re introduced to our two couples – Ewan, the secret spiller and his wife Silke (Amit Shah & Sura Dohnke), who have retreated to a sleepy and spacious cottage hideaway, and Chris & Glynn, the somewhat-disarming protection duo assigned to watch over them (Tom Burke and Roger Evans). Once these pairs are trapped under the same roof, Klokkenluider soon begins to shine as an increasingly claustrophobic pressure cooker of comedy gold.
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Much like Maskell, Tom Burke is a performer who’s underappreciated for the talent he possesses. Serving as the human barometer between his neurotic counterpart Glynn who equally cannot help but spill his guts, his implementation as the straight-man is delightful, as he attempts to keep some level of decorum. Glynn and Chris are a kind of fun-house mirror reflection of Silke and Ewan – they’re clearly going through a breakup of their own, with their remarkably banal bickering serving to disengage you from the genuine, perhaps unsettling reason for their presence.
There is a distinct flair of Ben Wheatley’s early work or Dennis Kelly’s extraordinary characters in Maskell’s writing, as Klokkenluider rests on your investment in its characters and the oscillations between them. Here the morose yet darkly comic interactions are reminiscent of Harold Pinter or Samuel Beckett’s Endgame as Burke and Evans take on the roles of Hamm and Clov. There’s beautiful absurdism as the power dynamics begin to melt away, and you warm to these odd guards-turned-friends in the most unusual circumstances.
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No matter how comfortable you become, there’s a pervading sense of discordance throughout Klokkenluider, skillfully orchestrated through a dissonance between its content and form. A terrific triptych of Nick Gillespie’s cinematography, Jason Rayton’s editing and Martin Pavey’s sound design create a permanently off-kilter feeling, like a perpetual cinematic sickness that cannot be shaken no matter how hard you try. Then, as Jenna Coleman arrives, the doors are blown off.
Coleman takes on a Malcolm Tucker-inspired magnificence of expletive-heavy, theatrical posturing as a journalist set on telling Ewan’s story and the de facto boss of Chris and Glynn. You’ve never seen Jenna Coleman like this, and she is exemplary. As Maskell slowly tightens his already razor-sharp script until it’s ready to lacerate, the world Klokkenluider inhabits begins to darken, intensifying its claustrophobia until it becomes apparent what is about to happen. This is undeniably Maskell’s greatest trick, a brilliant illusion of character and performance that completely disarms you.
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In many ways, Klokkenluider is not a political thriller at all but rather a dark romantic comedy. Chris and Glynn act as though they’re an old married couple, divorcing yet forced to embark on a holiday they’d booked months ago. As such, the thriller opens and closes with the death of their relationship and a final, honest confession of their true feelings. Somehow, Neil Maskell creates a bittersweet sadness through this confession, having sucker-punched you just minutes before, and that’s the sign of a damn good writer.
Klokkenluider is like a modern Pinter play, its razor-sharp humour hilarious and lacerating as Tom Burke and Roger Evans play out the slowest breakup ever. It’s a marvellously confident debut that leaves you eager for what Maskell does next.
Klokkenluider is like a modern Pinter play, its razor-sharp humour hilarious and lacerating as Tom Burke and Roger Evans play out the slowest breakup ever.