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4 Jul 2012


Stricken is a very extreme Taming of the Lothario.

Original Title: Komt een vrouw bij de dokter

Director: Reinout Oelemans

Language: Dutch

Screenplay: Gert Embrechts, Kluun; based on the novel by Kluun

Cast: Carice van Houten, Barry Atsma, Anna Drijver

Alpha male Stijn has it all: he's pretty cut, incredibly rich, worshipped by his employees as an advertising guru, and has a hot, lusty wife who treats his serial philandering as merely a bad habit. At her most jealous moments, she asks "How many times did you do it with this one?" more as foreplay than a prelude to a divorce suit. Yet when she is diagnosed with terminal and virulent breast cancer, the couple's happy arrangement begins to fall apart from the stress of dealing with sickness and mortality.

But was there ever such an arrangement? Did it only exist in the mind of a self-regarding narcissist? Did cancer corrupt the second coming of a polyamorous Lubitschian paradise? Or is this a story of how a corrupt marriage is saved through suffering? Is an affair the emotional foundation every man needs in order to find the selfless courage and strength to care for a wife with cancer? Or was Stijn merely a more photogenic, slightly more likeable cad than John Edwards or John McCain?

These possibilities hang in the air, somehow existing all at once. These possibilities co-exist in perfect equilibrium on the pages of the autobiographical novel by Kluun (the pen name of Raymond van de Klundert) and in the reader's mind; portrayed by actors and hence fixed on screen, the happy equivocation collapses towards a singular inevitability – that we're looking at the well-deserved taming of a Lothario. From print to screen, the genre collapses from an ironic and self-aware pastiche of Lubitsch romances and Hollywood melodrama to a cautionary tale extolling the virtue of true love and faithfulness. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. And the fact that this particular story angle ends up told so very well is testimony to the soundness of the script and direction, and to the very convincing dynamic between its leads.

Stricken is one of the rare specimens of film adaptations that are different creatures from their book origins and yet end up none the worse for it.

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