Year Released: 2001
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 90 minutes
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“The Cave” (or “De Grot,” as it is known in its native Holland) is a character-driven movie about the relationships we form, and the lasting effects they have on our lives. Despite that lame description, it’s really quite good. The movie follows Egon Wagter (Fedja Van Huêt), a 40-something geologist from Amsterdam who, at the film’s beginning, is in Thailand in order to perform what we can surmise is probably an illegal suitcase swap. He meets his contact (Kim Huffman) in a deserted parking lot, and from there the film turns sharply away from what the course we may have initially assumed it would take.
“The Cave” veers back and forth in a series of flashbacks and present-day scenes showing Egon’s first meeting and subsequent developing friendship with Axel van de Graaf (Marcel Hensema), a juvenile delinquent who eventually grows into sort of a Dutch Keyser Söze. The relationship between Egon and Axel is occasionally tense, especially as Egon is denied advancement in his university career and forced to abandon his dream of a research trip to South America while Axel is making his name in organized crime. Egon’s worsening financial situation eventually compels him to approach his old friend for help. Thus, the trip to Southeast Asia.
The two first meet at summer camp as teenagers (played by Eric van der Horst and Benja Bruining, respectively), where Egon is drawn to the more reckless Axel, who introduces his new friend to the finer things, such as drinking, hashish, sex, and shoplifting. Egon follows along, if with some reluctance. He also meets Marjoke, with whom he shares a deeper connection, culminating in a trip to a cave, which will have dramatic ramifications later in the film.
“The Cave” is based on the book De Grot by Tim Krabbé (who also wrote the original version of “The Vanishing”). Its non-linear narrative may be confusing at first, as we don’t just jump from the present to Egon and Axel’s teen years, but also their college years, young adult years, and thirty-something years, often with little indication of which is which except for varying hairstyles and fashions. Those paying attention will be rewarded with an unconventional tale of how people’s lives can go awry, even when they’re trying to do the right thing.
Marcel Hensema’s Axel may not be a nice person, but he is not without remorse for actions which have caused hurt to those he considers friends. Egon deserves some sympathy for some of the things that befall him in the movie, but he is not entirely blameless, and it is this ambiguity that makes “The Cave” such a refreshing story. The ending struck me as being a little…”European,” but overall it’s well worth the effort it will take to search it out.
Posted on April 9, 2003 in Reviews by Pete Vonder Haar
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