‘The Judgement’, a thought-provoking film from the Netherlands

Posted on April 13, 2022
‘The Judgement’, a thought-provoking film from the Netherlands
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Based on a true story that still unfolds today, the film premiering at Orinda this month, “The Judgment (De veroordeling)”, is a thriller/drama that will provoke thought about our celebrity-driven society and social media.

The story of the Deventer murder, named after the town where it occurred, has been in the headlines in the Netherlands for more than 20 years. But the truth might be so hard to fathom that by the end of “The Judgment,” viewers might have differing opinions about who did it. Beyond the pure mystery of the murder, the film exposes a chilling and heartbreaking aspect of our time: how a celebrity can overcome the police and justice systems and lead a real witch hunt. It was the first time in the Netherlands that the media could spread a conspiracy theory denying facts twice recognized by the judicial system.

Journalist Bas Haan had no idea what Pandora’s box he was opening when he began digging into the clues that led to a guilty verdict against Ernest Louwes for the murder of Jaqueline Wittenberg. At first he just tried to prove that an innocent man had been sent to prison. But his honest and well-meaning quest was hijacked by Maurice de Hond, a pollster, entrepreneur and TV personality, who launched a highly publicized crusade to not only free Louwes, but shine the spotlight on another person with no real proof. nor investigation. This person, Michael De Jong, maintained his innocence with the support of Haan. But his assertions remained inaudible, muffled by the media circus conjured up by de Hond.

Even if this story were pure fiction, it would still be sad: the lives of two families are shattered, either by police incompetence or by the selfishness of a group of people with ulterior motives and without modesty.

The script is complex and it’s a bit difficult to follow the plot at the beginning of the film, especially for those who don’t speak Dutch and have to read the subtitles. But it’s worth sticking with as everything falls into place and the scale of the drama is explored.

The cinematography is in keeping with the story: edgy, dark and contrasting. The fast pace and excellent acting make this thrilling film great entertainment. For the American viewer, the cultural differences between the Netherlands and the United States are interesting to observe and ponder, such as the 12-year prison sentence handed down for first-degree murder.

The film is based on a book written by Haan, the journalist who is one of the protagonists of the story. It is his version that is mainly presented here, but there are others. For example, Dutch philosopher of science Ton Derksen published a book in which he defends Louwes’ innocence.

The film received the Grand Jury Prize at the 2020 Seattle Film Festival and six awards in the World Competition, including Best Director for Sander Burger; Outstanding Male Performance to Fedja van Hunt as Haan; Best Supporting Actor for Yorick van Wageningen as De Jong; Best Supporting Actress for Lies Visschedijk as Meike Wittermans; and Best Adapted Screenplay of a Novel. The screening at the Orinda Theater is a first in the United States for general audiences.

“The Judgment” opens in Orinda on April 15 for at least a week. For more information, including tickets, see the website at www.internationalshowcase.org

About Cecil Cobb

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