Mysteries Film Details
Overview: A wealthy visitor to a small town befriends a midget and gets involved with two women as his behaviour becoming ever stranger.
Review: Rutger Hauer was in so much crap during his Hollywood career that it’s surprising to recall during his first decade of primarily Dutch features he seemed more in the vein of Daniel Day Lewis or Max von Sydow–a superb emerging international star who could do almost anything. Not that his acting declined later, but with occasional exceptions, his vehicles certainly did. This lesser-remembered English-language Dutch production, which apparently did not get a U.S. release at the time despite its cast names, finds Hauer ideally cast (in theory at least) as Knut Hamsun’s perplexing antihero-an alternately virtuous, mad, maddening, self-contradictory and often compulsively lying visitor to a provincial town where his charismatic personality and curious actions quickly set everyone abuzz. (That they nonetheless more or less accept him socially seems mostly a testament to the fact that he appears to be rich.) The townspeople never really figure him out, and neither does the reader–Hamsun leaves Johan Nagel duly a “mystery,” his background and motivations murky even when we’re privy to his own thoughts. The only sure thing one can say about him is that he is mercurial and seemingly unstable (Hamsun himself suggested the character “goes insane”), whether his various provocations are all deliberate or not. The major change here is that instead of an ordinary Norwegian town, the film (shot on the Isle of Man) takes place in a more posh-looking seaside community. The film also has that gauzy, soft-focus look of 1970s movies set in “the past,” though it’s hard to fully appreciate its no doubt handsome production values in the old VHS transfers that are currently the best you can find online. Because this is the 70s and “Emmanuelle” star Kristal is involved, there is some nudity, which almost certainly would have shocked the bejesus out of Hamsun. The erotic elements shoehorned in really never mesh with the whole, and needless to say are completely at odds with the book’s content. Kristal is rather dull in this part, anyway, and actually not that flattered by her look here, which is unfortunate because in the book the whole point of the character is that she’s unremarkable save for the extraordinary beauty that has turned the head of every man around. (A student has already possibly committed suicide for unrequited love of her at the story’s start.) Both hers and Hauer’s performances are somewhat compromised by presumably being dubbed by British actors. Rita Tushingham is a bit miscast as the poor older woman the protagonist takes also takes an interest in, though David Rappaport is good as the local “cripple” he likewise directs sometimes confused charitable instincts toward. Marina de Graaf, who started her career out playing nymphet roles, naturally gets stripped for another brief nude scene that seems to exist just so the movie might have a few stills it could use to sell itself as “Emmanuelle”-type softcore. Most of what is in “Mysteries” is faithful enough to the book–well, apart from one jarring, unnecessary departure at the end. Yet it’s extremely compressed, so the internal logic (or rather consistency of illogic) that Hamsun lends Nagel never crystallizes here. Instead, we simply get the feeling the filmmakers failed to communicate the story’s gist or point. That’s because they haven’t conveyed that the primary narrative force is meant to be Nagel’s oft-inexplicably changeable moods and actions. Hauer would certainly be up to illustrating those contradictions, but the movie doesn’t really give him the time, scenes or depth. So it’s an intriguing performance that can finally only hint at the complexities this “Mysteries” skims over. This is a watchable, well-produced movie, but one whose drastic condensation of a difficult, “psychological” (rather than plot-driven) literary text reduces that source material until its actual value is almost entirely lost.
Duration: 93 min
Genre: Drama, Mystery
Also known as: Mysteries,Mystiria,Evil Mysteries,La amante misteriosa,Misterios,Mistérios,O Visitante Misterioso,Knut Hamsun’s Mysteries,Rakkaus ja tuho