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Overview for Marleen Gorris
Marleen Gorris

Marleen Gorris


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Also Known As: Died:
Born: December 9, 1948 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Netherlands Profession: Director ... screenwriter director


A gifted Dutch director and screenwriter whose small output has made a considerable international splash, Marleen Gorris has managed to make substantial feminist statements in her work by finding relevant political issues and recognizable, everyday wisdoms in the extreme plot situations her films detail. Her filmmaking skills are undeniable, yet her visual style often seems deceptively straightforward; similarly, her means of storytelling are clear and sensible, and yet by the time her various narrative threads come together, profound ambiguities have arisen. The emotional gamut of her work, meanwhile, ranges from the tender and mellow to the gruesomely horrific to the hilariously ironic, yet her work remains remarkably accessible, and the palpable anger in much of her oeuvre may be provocative, but it is not off-putting. Indeed, Gorris' primary talent may be her considerable ability to juggle the complexities of the questions her films raise.

Born to Protestant working-class parents in the very Catholic southern part of The Netherlands, Gorris grew restless at a young age, studying both English in her native land and drama in England. An interest in student theater led her further into the arts, but it was not until she was 30 that she began writing scripts. Gorris took her first effort to the great Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman, hoping to interest her in directing it. Akerman, however, told Gorris that she must make the film herself. The result, "A Question of Silence" (1982), caused considerable international controversy with its story of three women strangers who, seemingly inexplicably, brutally murder a male shopkeeper in his own store when he accuses one of them of shoplifting. Told as a courtroom mystery, the film somehow sidesteps being dogmatic as sexism is seen as the ultimate villain and is laughed right out of court.

Gorris also won attention with "Broken Mirrors" (1984). Eschewing the cool detachment of her debut film, she here told a tale of horror, as a businessman kidnaps and slowly kills female victims, taking photographs along the way. Another subplot detailed a woman's decision to begin working at a brothel; by the time of the film's conclusion, the stories have dovetailed beautifully. Metaphors such as the release provided by one victim's starvation have come to the fore, and the importance of female bonding has become an important way of facing social and personal pains the film have shown to be quite common.

Gorris did not complete another feature until 1990. Although "The Last Island," an English-language film, was less well-received than her earlier efforts, it still contained much of interest in its tale of the seven survivors of a global disaster. Gorris worked mostly in Dutch TV during the 90s, but in mid-decade she was finally able to complete filming a script she had written in 1988. "Antonia's Line" (1995) won Gorris greater exposure than she had enjoyed to date, and her film won the Oscar as Best Foreign Film. Seen by many as an atypically gentle work, the film nonetheless dealt intelligently with topics ranging from rape to incest to the plight of the working woman in its story of several generations of a woman's family. The importance of female friendship was as prominent as ever, as was Gorris' typically skillful sense of characterization and her handling of actors. A real audience pleaser, the film won a number of "people's choice" awards at film festivals, but Gorris herself, as feminist as ever and, more recently, public about her lesbianism, aptly saw little difference from her earlier work.

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