By Dale Luis Menezes
Stories about art heists or art forgeries make good material for movies. IFFI 2016 featured ‘A Real Vermeer’ (2016), about Han van Meegeren, who forged the paintings of Johannes Vermeer, the Dutch master who painted ‘The Girl with a Pearl Earring’. Lead actors Jeroen Spitzenberger and Lize Feryn spoke exclusively to The Peacock about their engagement with Dutch art and cinema.
While their movie draws on Van Meegren’s biographical details, the filmmakers have also used fiction to weave the narrative of the film. “My wild guess is…60 to 65 percent,” says Spitzenberger. “I would say exactly the same,” Feryn concurs.
Was the film inspired by the story of Vincent van Gogh: a struggling artist with his fair share of eccentricities “To be honest, no,” says Spitzenberger. “But when you put it that way…yeah I understand the association. I have been talking about the 60 percent truth in the movies…the writers, Rudolph van den Berg and Jan Eilander may have been inspired by frustrated, struggling artists.”
He explained, “the film is about the development of a young artist, who in the end becomes a forger – in a way he imitates his idol in painting. He is unable, unfortunately, to find his own voice, his own style of painting. What’s the difference between forgery and art? When are you a true artist? Does it depend on your perception? Does it depend on money? Does it depend on the approval of an audience? It’s a weird relationship that the artists share with the audience.”
Who are their favorite Dutch artists? While Spitzenberger prefers “magisch realisme” or magic realism in art (though he says he likes Vermeer when Feryn prods him), Feryn definitively prefers Vermeer. “He puts emotion in his work. I remember as a kid I went to see ‘The Girl with a Pearl Earring’… and I was impressed by the colors, and the depth, the light, the serenity, and the perfect beauty. Even if you enlarge a small part of the painting and observe the detail in it, it will still be beautiful,” she says.
Both actors were visibly happy to be in Goa, even while sitting in plastic chairs in The Peacock office. Spitzenberger said, “a cinema festival can bind people. It is a very hopeful thing, right? There should be more of such festivals – of poetry, of music, or of food, or anything…it doesn’t matter.”