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MYSTERIES
1978

poster

Film

Director:

Paul de Lussanet

Language:
Dutch

Running Time: 98'

Main Cast :
Rutger Hauer - Johan Frederick Nagel
Sylvia Kristel - Dany Kielland
David Rappaport - The Midget
Andréa Ferréol - Kamma
Rita Tushingham - Martha Gude
Peter Faber - Karlsen
Kees Brusse - Dr. Stenersen
Liesbeth List - Mrs Stenersen
Fons Rademakers - Chief Constable
Marina de Graaf - Sara
Adrian Brine - Hotel Owner
Siem Vroom - Bailiff
Lex van Delden - Student

Screenplay:
Paul de Lussanet from the book by Knut Hamsun

Plot:
A strange young man arrives to spend the summer in a small Norwegian coastal town and from that moment on he acts as a catalyst that brings to the surface all the hidden impulses, thoughts and darker feelings of the local people. He is an intriguing mixture of arrogance and humility, virtue and depravity, sanity and madness, cursed with the merciless gift of insight into the human soul, especially his own. He can foresee, but cannot prevent, his own self-destruction.

The lovely woman with the shock of white hair and the beautiful seductress with the reputation of driving men to the brink of insanity are destined to weave their bodies and souls into his life with disastrous results...

Notes:

Talking about Rutger and his Johan Nagel's performance, Sylvia Kristel remembered: "Can you believe that with those huge hands of his he learned to play the violin for his part in 'Mysteries'? Well, he did….and he played it beautifully".

The film (shot on the Isle of Man) is based on the the book by the Norwegian Nobel Literature Prize winner Knut Hamsun (1859-1952).

Born Knud Pederson in 1859, Hamsun spent his early childhood in the far north of Norway, in the small town of Hamarøy. He later described this time as one of idyllic bliss where he and the other children lived in close harmony with the animals on the farm, and where they felt an indescribable oneness with Nature and the cosmos around and above them. Hamsun developed an early obsession to become a writer and showed a fanatical courage and endurance in pursuing his dream against tremendous obstacles. He was convinced of his own artistic awareness and sensitivity, and was imbued with a certainty that in attempting to achieve unprecedented levels of creativity and consciousness, he was acting in accordance with the higher purpose of Nature.

In January 1882 Hamsun's Faustian quest of self-discovery took him on the first of several trips to America. He was described by a friend at the time as "tall, broad, lithe with the springing step of a panther and with muscles of steel. His yellow hair drooped down upon his clear-cut classical features."

Greatly influenced by the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Hamsun saw himself as part of the vanguard of a European spiritual aristocracy which would reject these false values and search out Nature's hidden secrets--developing a higher morality and value system based on organic, natural law. In an essay entitled "From the Unconscious Life of the Mind," published in 1890, Hamsun laid out his belief: "An increasing number of people who lead mental lives of great intensity, people who are sensitive by nature, notice the steadily more frequent appearance in them of mental states of great strangeness . . . a wordless and irrational feeling of ecstasy; or a breath of psychic pain; a sense of being spoken to from afar, from the sky or the sea; an agonizingly developed sense of hearing which can cause one to wince at the murmuring of unseen atoms; an irrational staring into the heart of some closed kingdom suddenly and briefly revealed".

Hamsun expounded this philosophy in his first great novel "Hunger", which attempted to show how the known territory of human consciousness could be expanded to achieve higher forms of creativity, and how through such a process the values of a society which Hamsun believed was increasingly sick and distorted could be redefined for the better. This theme was continued in his next book, "Mysteries", and again in "Pan", published in 1894, which was based upon Hamsun's own feeling of pantheistic identification with the cosmos and his conviction that the survival of Western man depended upon his re-establishing his ties with Nature and leading a more organic and wholesome way of life.

In 1916 Hamsun began work on what became his greatest and most idealistic novel, "Growth of the Soil", which won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921. It painted Hamsun's ideal of a solid, farm-based culture, where human values, instead of being fixed upon transitory artificialities which modern society had deemed fashionable, would be based upon the fixed wheel of the seasons in the safekeeping of an inviolable eternity where man and Nature existed in harmony.

Hamsun's philosophy echoed Nietzsche's belief that "from the future come winds with secret beat of wings and to sensitive ears comes good news" (cited in Alfred Rosenberg, "The Myth of the Twentieth Century"). And for Hamsun the "good news" of his lifetime was the rise of National Socialism in Germany under Adolf Hitler, whom he saw as the embodiment of the coming European man and a reflection of the spiritual striving of the "Germanic soul."

The leaders of the new movement in Germany were also aware of the essential National Socialist spirit and world view which underlay Hamsun's work, and he was much lauded, particularly by Joseph Goebbels and Alfred Rosenberg. In 1934 he was awarded the prestigious Goethe Medal for his writings, but he handed back the 10,000 marks prize money as a gesture of friendship and as a contribution to the National Socialist process of social reconstruction. He developed close ties with the German-based Nordic Society, which promoted the Pan-Germanic ideal, and in January 1935 he sent a letter to its magazine supporting the return of the Saarland to Germany. He always received birthday greetings from Rosenberg and Goebbels, and on the occasion of his 80th birthday from Hitler himself.

With the outbreak of war Hamsun persistently warned against the Allied attempts to compromise Norwegian neutrality, and on April 2, 1940--only a week before Hitler dramatically forestalled the Allied invasion of Norway--Hamsun wrote an article in the "Nasjonal Samling" newspaper calling for German protection of Norwegian neutrality against Anglo-Soviet designs.

Hamsun's loyalty to the National Socialist New Order in Europe was well appreciated in Berlin, and in May 1943 Hamsun and his wife were invited to visit Joseph Goebbels, a devoted fan of the writer.

Even when the war was clearly lost, and others found it expedient to keep silence or renounce their past allegiances, he remained loyal without regard to his personal safety: on May 26 Hamsun and his wife were placed under house arrest. Committed to hospital because of his failing health, Hamsun was subject to months of interrogation designed to wear down and confuse him. As with Ezra Pound in the United States, the aim was to bring about a situation where Hamsun's sanity could be questioned: a much easier option for the Norwegian authorities than the public prosecution of an 85-year-old literary legend.

Hamsun refused to crack and was more than a match for his interrogators. So, while his wife was handed a three-year hard-labor sentence for her National Socialist activities, and his son Arild got four years, Hamsun received a 500,000-kroner fine and the censorship of his books. Even this did not stop him, however, and he continued to write, regretting nothing and making no apologies.

In his 92nd year, he passed away, leaving us, not only a chain of polemics concerning his ideals, but also a wonderful literary legacy.

Rutger's Notes:
"Mysteries", based on the novel by Knut Hamsun was shot on the Isle of Man. I used to travel lighter than now, but the classic Fiat convertible which I had was packed and I even had the last suitcase tied on the roof. Such a genius little car. On my way over to the UK I had to make a stop in order to meet with a director for another, possible film. The winds were howling and my little vehicle would just barely get into the highest gear. I met the director. Nice guy, and left the "roof" case with him. There were two ferries to be "caught" in this travelling process .The English channel and the Irish sea. It was a great trip and I got there on time.

The director of "Mysteries" was a painter and open to ideas. I worked hard prepping. Since the story required me to play a few bars, I practiced and fiddled for a month with the violin and did manage to play a piece of music, which I think they even ended up using. It was a melancholic and very sad piece I loved and had heard as I was working in Hungary a few years before. It was a hit there but had been banned from the radio because people, especially teenagers started to throw themselves off the roofs around the country. I felt it was appropriate for the story and the character to try and reveal his longings to the woman he has fallen in love with while she's avoiding him at a party. In his despair and last moments he plays the "song". Johan Nagel, the character, ends his life at the end of this story. In the book - good books can be so creative sometimes - the village people find his body in the harbour, close to a jetty, as the tide is low. His body resting on the seeds, belly down, hands and feet tied, pockets full of heavy stones. And his mouth open and full of clay.....I ask you...is this opera or what.

Sylvia Kristel, a fellow countrywoman and quite famous as an actress at the time for her erotic films, I had met by a lovely coincidence. By the time I finished work on 13 episodes of "Florisetc",for the German TV in Hungary I passed through Austria and met her over a glass of wine as I travelled back to Holland. We hit it off well. Anyway, as the work on "Mysteries" progressed it turned out that the director had pretended to be open, but really had very little clues or understanding for my interpretation or emotional story. He loved the look more than the content. God bless him. Even as I was reading the script and book I knew I would have never gotten such an interesting offer again and decided to go with it. Bergman would have been better. But he'd just announced not to make any movies after "The Snake". Sylvia, it turned out, had a boyfriend. And boyfriends can be adorable and supportive. After he came in she started showing up with black eyes and blue markings over her body. Only to be discovered in the last moment before shooting. Dark glasses. And just a few bits of nudity. Drugs might be part of it.

Rita Tushingham, David Rappaport, and other really good actors. It was tough. But I loved it.

Last little thing. Interpretation. The novel talks about a man who has seen enough, or thinks he has. A man who believes he is following fate and pretty much is on the end of his rope as the ship he has boarded earlier makes a stop on this island. As he stands on deck watching people unboard and cargo being taken off, he discovers the face of a woman. It strikes him so deeply that he runs to his cabin and jumps off the ship as it is leaving. If this is fate it also means that the last week of his life spent here, is part of it. In that week the woman reveals herself to be a self-obsessed teasing black beauty with a little heart. Maybe she could have saved this man. Who knows. But he jumped. My last thought on it is that he might have been right. Who knows.....

Knut Hamsun

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