Nearer the sea
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Nearer the sea


A modest and loving portrait of a small enclave of old-fashioned beach huts by the North Sea. The sound track is fragments of conversations with the inhabitants, who themselves are not seen on screen; the protagonists on screen are the huts, the beach and the sea. And, only a stone's throw away, the heavy industry of the Hoogovens furnaces. Nearer the Sea was made at the end of the summer season, when the huts are taken down for the winter; but the way in which this has been filmed with melancholy lighting and pictorial framing points to less temporary decay. The huts form the set for a season which is long gone. Or, in the words of the makers: 'Changes in the landscape, the transitory nature and reminiscences of the summer form the basis for this short film'.

Source: catalogue International Film Festival Rotterdam


language: Dutch/English subtitled
running time: 26 minutes
première: International Filmfestival Rotterdam 1993
director: BarBara Hanlo and Brigit Hillenius
scenario: BarBara Hanlo
production: BarBara Hanlo
sales: PEP /Eye Film Institute
camera: Brigit Hillenius
editor: Jan Wouter van Reijen
sound: BarBara Hanlo
festivals and screenings: International Filmfestival Rotterdam 1993 / Dutch Film Festival Utrecht 1993 / Sydney Filmfestival 1993 / IDFA Amsterdam 1993 / Dokumentart Neubrandenburg 1994 / Broadcast Kunstkanaal 1996 / Into the great wide open festival Vlieland 2012, 'NOW WAKES THE SEA' - NLTR400' duo filmprogram in Istanbul 2013 / IFFR 50/50 anniversary program 2021


The need for a story

Sometimes you have such a bad luck festival. A day when every movie you see disappoints you. The images seem interchangeable. Enough pretensions, but nothing really impresses. A iconoclasm in a glass of water.
What you miss is the inspiration, the involvement, a vision. No director can convince you that it is precisely this film that had to be made.
On such a day, I saw CLOSER BY THE SEA by BarBara Hanlo and Brigit Hillenius. A pleasant exception, because this short film does have eloquence. Not that the images are so dizzying, or the story so stormy. The images are very sober, and the story is extremely modest.

In static frames we see how, at the end of the summer, a colony of beach houses is demolished and moved. A collection of poetic postcards: house half-demolished, house on truck, sand, campfire, seagulls. Images that bathe in melancholic moods that reflect the late summer summer.

At the same time we hear the voices of the grandfathers, grandmothers, mothers, fathers and children who live in the houses. We never get to see them, but listen to fragments of their stories, which are mounted on the tape in succession. How he played here as a child and his children's children play here. What can be seen in the bunkers in the dunes. How conveniently the house is furnished. Why you should take sandwiches to the beach. How the cottages should make way for an ambitious destination plan, and therefore move closer to the sea.
Not distracted by the storytellers (a swimsuit that is wrong, a strange nose or whatever) you can concentrate entirely on the story. The voices evoke their own images; you see what you don't see. The photo album is slowly gaining history. A history about the meaning of a place; about the connection of a group of bathers with their houses, the beach and the sea.

It's working. Taken away by the calm images and the lively, enthusiastic voices of the residents, you as a viewer will understand the importance of the existence and survival of this wooden chain village under the smoke of the Hoogovens in IJmuiden. You are won for a place, and therefore - finally, finally - convinced of the necessity of a story.

Judith Koelemeijer, April / May 1993