You can say what you like about the internet, but it has its uses. Not only can you harass various individuals on a myriad of social media sites to your heart’s content, shop for items you really don’t need and have them delivered almost before hitting the ‘buy’ button, but you can also look up funny looking words and find out what they mean.
According to Google, The word Klokkenluider literally is Dutch for "bell ringer", but is generally the Dutch word referring to a whistleblower. And having seen actor Neil Maskell’s directorial debut of the same name, that he’s also written, it makes perfect sense.
Arriving at a remote holiday home in Holland are married couple Ewan (Amit Shah) and Silke (Sura Dohnke). Their pretence for being there is to throw a party to celebrate Ewan’s 40th birthday, but the fact of the matter is, they’re using it as a hideout.
Ewan works in IT for the government, which has seen him working on the computers at number 10. It was there that he saw something he really shouldn’t have, something of huge importance. So much so that his wife contacted a member of the press, which has led them to swiftly leave the country.
With this information supposedly being sensitive in nature and of national importance, the paper have sent out two bodyguards – Glynn (Roger Evans) and another Ewan (Tom Burke) – to effectively babysit the couple, as they await a senior reporter’s arrival. Once there, she will determine if what the couple claim to know is indeed newsworthy, but until then the four have to make do with each other’s company, keeping their heads down in a quiet Dutch village.
Since making his acting debut in the early nineties on British TV, Maskell has now amassed well over a 100 acting credits to his name, with one of his most recent being that of head baddie in Apple TV’s Hijack alongside Idris Elba.
It’s fair to say that his directorial debut has taken its sweet time, but it was certainly worth the wait.
Klokkenluider is a sharply written drama, laced with black humour. It is absorbingly clever, taking the notion of a macguffin – a device of some kind that triggers the plot – to a whole new level. You then have four characters who play with it throughout, with the macguffin being used almost like a grenade being tossed from one character to the next in quick succession, before it goes off.
For the most part Maskell keeps his audience in the dark as to what the information is this couple know, but like most macguffins, we don’t need to know; the fact that it’s causing the panic and the chaos that it clearly is, is enough.
The way the characters interact with each other is interesting too, as they offer sides of their personalities to other members of the group, so as an audience we get an upper hand, to a point, with a fuller picture to each of them as they open up to one another.
And just when you think you’ve got a handle on what’s going on Maskell throws in another grenade in the shape of journalist Flo, played with awesome gusto by Jenna Coleman.
For a long time Maskell has had the ability to improve everything he’s popped up in, and now he does something extraordinary like this behind the camera. He doesn’t play it safe either, as some might expect from a debut, managing to make his vision, that could easily work on the stage as an intimate piece, a real cinematic statement. He’s also helped out by a sublime soundscape produced by Andy Shortwave – AKA Andy Pettitt.
Its biggest concern is the name, that although clever, may be just a wee bit too clever for most audiences, who may be put off by it, with their fingers far too reticent to do the tricky alphabet dance on Google. It will be their loss however.
It’s a bold and intriguing piece of cinema, that will hopefully mean we see less of Haskell – in the nicest possible way – allowing him to write and pop up behind the camera more. Uitstekend.
***You can read our interview with Neil Maskell here.***