The pains of growing up. An endless and endless and endless source of inspiration for filmmakers and writers, bildungsromans and coming of age films. Kids confused by the physical and psychological changes they’re going through during that final summer when their childhood ended for good. Why don’t we ever get bored by it? Probably because there’s nobody who didn’t experienced these perks. But because adolescents’ angst, confusion, longings and curiosity are so damn photogenic as well. Because if Tamar van den Dop pulled of anything, then it’s creating a visually stunning film. And admittedly, a coming of age tale that’s once again gripping, even though it has been told so often.
Meis is a sixteen year old girl (impressively portrayed by Gaite Jansen) who lives in the middle of nowhere with her stressed out mother, unemployed father and her demented grandmother. Literary the middle of nowhere; her house is the only one to see in an endless green sea of Dutch flatlands. There’s something about her house though, as it is dangerously located at the sharp turn of a road, which makes Meis desperately desires for a car to crash it. Then at least something’s happening. While the summer reaches its hottest peak, Meis is bored stiff, hanging around the house, teasing her weary parents and longing for a boy to take her virginity.
Van den Dop, who plays the mother herself, builds the film up slowly. She takes a lot of time to make the viewer part of Meis’ world, which makes the heat, the boredom and the endlessness of the summer all the more palpable. The sound design plays an important role here too, as the ongoing sounds of buzzings flies and squeaking fences enhance the atmosphere. Ven den Dop knows how to handle a camera too; the impressive panoramic shots of Holland’s flat meadows, backed by a bluesy soundtrack, create an American prairie-like vibe.
Having said that, Supernova has its minor problems as well. Sure, the slow pace and the overall repetitiveness have a clear function, but after a while the film is literary starting to feel as a drag. A twenty minutes shorter would have done the film some good, as I don’t think it would have made it lost its power. Then there’s the voice-over. Fascinated as Meis is by physics, she draws philosophical conclusions from human behaviour and the world around her by comparing it to laws of nature, which often feels a bit too precocious and pompous for a girl her age.
In Holland, people tend to be cynical towards their own film industry. Save for a few exceptions, we don’t really compete internationally. Romcoms for the domestic market, that’s about it. With Tamar van den Dop and Supernova, at least we have yet another exception.
Here a trailer of Supernova with English subtitles.