Friday, 13 November 2009


A Golden Globe winner and contender for the 1959 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, The Village On The River follows the affable Dr. van Taeke, a turn-of-the century medicine man determined to make a difference to the lives of inhabitants in a small riverside village. With his unflappably cool bedside manner and his equitable compassion, van Taeke becomes a close personal friend to many of the villagers, rich and poor alike. But when a local man known as Long Lent is found hanged from the bell-tower, a dark shadow is cast over the village, and soon another man is mysteriously murdered and left in the polder. As life falls apart for the locals, van Taeke’s alliance with his more disadvantaged patients is brought to light by the village council, who see him as an enemy and, exploiting his weaknesses, reduce him to nothing better than a village idiot.

While it is a remarkable work in its own right, the film does invite cursory comparisons with Henri-Georges Clouzot’s taut thriller Le Corbeau (1943), in which a well-respected physician is falsely indicted by a series of poison pen letters. But where Le Corbeau manages to build paranoia and suspicion with a consistent tone, The Village On The River negates its own emotional clout with some peculiar pacing. A curious flashback sequence with a sailor and a salacious gypsy girl sits uncomfortably amidst a maudlin pub scene. Having said that, the film handles death respectfully, and the funeral sequences are absolutely stunning.

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