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‘Calimucho’ – A Remarkable Tightrope Walk between Documentary and Narrative Fiction

Calimucho (Eugenie Jansen, The Netherlands) (International Premiere)
Berlinale Forum, Thursday, 12 February
With Dicky Kilian, Willy Soeurt, Peter Verberk, Ellie Teeuw, Tarek Hannoudi, Ralph Huppertz, Manfred Huppertz, Joshy Huppertz, Freddy Kenton, Evelyne Bouglione, Timo Soeurt.
Read the Forum synopsis.

Director Eugenie Jansen traveled with threadbare Circus Harlekino for an entire season, through the rural countryside along the German-Dutch border.

Harking back to the beginnings of sound film, Jansen frames her story with narrative songs composed and performed – with much argument – by the circus band. I believe Brecht would have been amused, and appreciative.

We first see Dicky in close-up, flinching at each misthrown blade, as her loser boyfriend Willy practices his knifethrowing act on her. As the film progresses, we come to know these two mismatched souls, their families, and members of the company as they raise and strike tents, tend after animals, promote the circus in forlorn border towns, perform, and go about their hardscrabble existence as circus people.

A remarkable tightrope walk between documentary and narrative fiction, Calimucho employs the means of reportage to make a robustly entertaining feature film. Willy Soeurt really is the Harlekino’s clown and magician – though a skilled performer, not the drunken loser of the story. He and Dicky Kilian really are partners, and the winning child Timo Soeurt is their real son. Not surprising, but they are quite good actors. Circus Harlekino is real too, though more artisanal than threadbare, and from all evidence an event not to be missed. Only the story is pure fiction.

Willy Soeurt said it best in the Q&A: "As a circus man, I see it is like circus." Todd Browning would’ve freaked.

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