Martijn decides to come visit his sister Daantje back at home in Holland after many years apart. When he out of nowhere arrives on her doorstep Daantje is met by a camera in her face. Martijn wants to make a documentary about his little sister.
It was nice to get into one of the earlier handheld camera films, even though this wasn't the first one it was still earlier than "August Underground", "[REC]" and "Cloverfield". It's also very, very different. It's not a shock-mockumentary, a horror film or a monster film. It's a very down to earth family drama. In most ways it feels, looks and acts as a standard home video, even though it sometimes does some editing that I wasn't too happy with because it makes it feel less like a home video (rewinding, etc).
Martijn has moved to England many years ago and hasn't seen his sister Daantje in all of those years. One day he knocks on her door and when she opens she sees her brother holding a camera. He tells her is making a documentary about her, and starts following her as much as possible. After a while it becomes frustrating for her and all of her surroundings to have Martijn and the lense in their face. Someone who gets extra annoyed is Ramon, a guy who has a thing for the little sister and wants nothing but for Martijn to leave them alone. As time passes, we uncover an old family tragedy (if you wanna call it that) that Martijn needs to get out of his head, and it becomes clear that his visit back to Holland isn't just to meet and document his sister.
I'm gonna jump straight to the flaws. Like I said eariler, it feels a lot like a home video and that's what makes the film strong (as it is in many cases), but for some reason they put in some effects, like them rewinding the tape to watch what happened earlier. Things like that obviously wouldn't be caught on the tape (or am I just missing something with old cameras?). Even if that was the case, there's a scene where they rewind to watch a scene that wasn't there the first time we saw it, so it makes no sense. Things like that ruined a lot of the realism in the film. Luckily the movie has a lot more going on than trying to be a realistic home video.
As always - hard to judge actors when they are foreign, but from what I could gather the acting is excellent. It couldn't be any better if you ask me. Roeland Fernhout who plays Roman makes us believe that he is really on the verge of punching the camera man if he comes any closer. And of course Kim van Kooten, Danntje, does a great job as the confused sister. Ignore the editing flaws - this is what really holds a handheld film together well.
The story never gets as dark as some might make it seem, but the film is very unsettling in all it's simplicity. So much of it comes from brief reactions and small bits of dialog, and not from extreme visual stuff like gore - there isn't any of that. The storytelling works, and the revealing of the true reason for Martijn to film her is done carefully and in a way that makes you believe it.
"Zusje" is a drama, don't expect anything else. It's not extreme in any way, but it has some really awkward and, to some people, disturbing moments. All the actor's are great in their roles and the only real flaw of the film is that the editing could've been done better in some cases. It's a slow film but I think if you've read this far the movie is for you. If you enjoy dark European drama films, you might be in for a treat.