Starring: Willeke van Ammelrooy, Els Dottersmns
Director: Marleen Gorris
Antonia has long been marked out as a black sheep but when she returns to her Dutch hometown after the end of World War 2 she does so with a mission to stake her claim as self-appointed matriarch. As she marches down the street, she passes graffiti on a building that reads ‘Welcome to the Liberators’. It’s as if the words have been painted there for her and her teenage daughter Danielle rather than the allied troops that put an end to the occupation of this charming rural village.
One by one the town’s outcasts are drawn to the charismatic woman and offers of marriage soon ensue. But Antonia is an independent sort, as is Danielle who announces that she wants to have a baby but not necessarily a husband to go with it. And so Therese is born – a child prodigy, as it transpires, thanks to the tutoring of a nihilistic old intellectual and her primary school teacher who Danielle, in a characteristic flash of magic realism, envisages as the Venus de Milo herself.
The women set about making things right in the Catholic community. A priest giving a sermon about women as so many Jezebels is caught receiving fellacio in the confessional booth and is forced to recant on his words. A man caught raping a retarded girl is stabbed through the groin with a pitch fork and promptly banished. When he returns years later and repeats the offence on Antonia’s own grand daughter, he doesn’t get away so lightly.
Antonia’s Line is a celebration of four generations of Dutch women and their determination to live life under their own terms. Narrated by the youngest of the line, the film (which won the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 1996) is tinged with melancholic nostalgia as well as strong feminist pride.