The Sixth of May , directed by the late Dutch director Theo Van Gogh , is a thriller that re-enacts the murder of right wing Dutch politician, Pim Fortuyn, on 6th May 2002. The slick movie has a Hollywood feel to it, but might prove impenetrable without a little Wikipediaing of the facts (at least), unless you're clued up on your Dutch politics.
Van Gogh was not shy of tackling controversial subjects, and was known for strident views on certain aspects of Islamic culture. This outspokenness eventually cost him his life This outspokenness eventually cost him his life. His 10-minute 2004 film, Submission , made with Dutch-Somali politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali , showed anti-feminist Qu'rananic verses projected onto the partially-clothed bodies of Muslim women kneeling in prayer. Although he didn't take them seriously, the death threats that he received after the film was released were all too real. Van Gogh was brutally murdered in broad daylight on 2nd November 2004 by 26-year-old Mohammed Bouyeri , a Dutch citizen with alleged terrorist links.
Van Gogh died during the post-production of The Sixth of May. Those who had been following his work felt that he could only have got better. Dana Linssen, editor-in-chief of Dutch film magazine, De Filmkrant , told salon.com that, in his final movie, van Gogh's "different personae: the political commentator, the artiste provocateur on a mission and the humanist with a frank and unsettling view on human nature, all come together." Van Gogh's "different personae: the political commentator, the artiste provocateur on a mission and the humanist with a frank and unsettling view on human nature, all come together"
The Sixth of May clearly presupposes audience knowledge of the events surrounding Fortuyn's fatal shooting, and this makes it harder for a non-Dutch audience to get into the film. Fortuyn was killed by a 33-year-old Dutch animal rights activist, Volkert van der Graaf, who saw Fortuyn's right-wing views as threatening to immigrants and Muslims, in particular.
You can see where van Gogh's interest in this subject stems from, in Fortuyn's illiberal stance on Islam. Furthermore, the event rocked Dutch politics and attracted international attention. Along with co-writer Thomas Ross, van Gogh's script fictionalises the event, except in one important area: Fortuyn appears only in archive footage, rather than being played by an actor.
In this version of events, a photojournalist, Jim (Thijs Romer) is working near the location of Fortuyn's impending murder, and accidentally catches the culprit on film in the background of a photo. Turning private eye on us, he meets the Turkish Ayse (Tara Elders), who is entangled with some shady characters. One of them is an animal rights activist.
Beyond all of this, there are international meetings between interested parties who are keen to use the unstable political situation to their own advantage. The implication is that they wanted to do away with Fortuyn to get their own man in.
As Deborah Young wrote in the Variety review , "spiked with classic action chases by taxi, motorcycle and through a tropical fun fair, the film keeps up a riveting pace," but perhaps there is a little too much going on. It's difficult enough keeping up with all the men who pop up in Ayse's life, as you just know that Jim is the one for her, and wonder just how long it will take the movie to get them together. And you shouldn't really be wondering that, you should be paying attention to the historical re-enactment. There's a disjunction between form and content that can seem jarring at times. There's a disjunction between form and content that can seem jarring at times
The Sixth of May is not as incendiary as Submission, and it will always remain overshadowed by that short film when van Gogh is spoken of. It's chilling, watching this film about a public figure murdered in the clear light of day, directed by a public figure murdered in the clear light of day. That is probably why most people will see it. The Sixth of May is a learning experience, albeit a pacy, sometimes confusing one. However, it is destined to be a postscript to van Gogh's legacy.
The Sixth of May is released on DVD in the UK on 31st March 2008
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