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101 min. Dutch, Flemish, French, English.

Mette has had her second child and is on parental leave. Yet life at home is far from perfect. She wishes her husband Simon would pull his weight more within the family and misses her job at a centre for victims of domestic violence, where her colleagues assure her that things are also running smoothly without her. More dismayed than reassured, she eventually strikes out on her own to try and help a former client in crisis, albeit against her better judgement. When the client’s violent boyfriend shows up, the situation threatens to escalate.
The retrospective view referenced by the title is anything but a conventional cinematic flashback. The events are highly fragmented, with the puzzle pieces of the plot only coming together gradually. This fractured quality piercingly conveys the nature of a traumatic experience and a way of experiencing the world where the ego is not master in its own house. The recitative singing on the soundtrack then comments on the plot. The interweaving of montage, sound design and the superb performance by the lead actress Circe Lethem makes Retrospekt into an immersive cinematic experience. (Anna Hoffmann)

Esther Rots was born in Groenlo, Netherlands in 1972. After studying at the Academy of Visual Arts in Arnhem, she enrolled at the Dutch Film Academy in Amsterdam in 1994. Together with her brother Hugo Rots, she founded the film production company Rots Filmwerk in 2006. Retrospekt is her second feature-length film.

Sensory cinema

RETROSPEKT is a film that is seen and felt through Mette’s perspective, told in the first person, as it were, and in an arena that I refer to as sensory cinema. I work intuitively and associatively; conveying a feeling is as important to me as telling a story. I do not want to illustrate Mette’s life, but I want to show her interpretation of that life, her experience, her fractured reality with all its clumsy negotiations.

Music & sound

Music and sound design have always played a very important role for me in realising this sensory cinema and in the oscillation between the objective and subjective. The sound designer, Dan Geesin, and I always works in parallel; he uses the same elements that I use to develop the film, without simply illustrating the script. 
The music in RETROSPEKT emphasises the film’s fairy tale-like feeling. The excessively operatic music is romantic, absurd and dramatic. It narrates a parallel emotional development and uses humour to create distance when either the audience or Mette need a little space or time to think. Part of Geesin’s intuitive art is his ability to simultaneously create an emotional connection with the audience and Mette’s development.


Our raison d’être
With the declining importance of religion, politics and family values in our individualistic society, we must seek our raison d’être anew and within ourselves. When everything seems possible, meaninglessness always lurks nearby. This vague, tormenting, but clearly recognisable and contemporary feeling of unrest manifests itself in many facets of life and is concealed by a thick layer of daily goals, priorities and the embodiments of success. 
With Mette, this restlessness manifests itself in her need for control and it is precisely this control that she loses several times in the film. 

‘Now’ versus ‘in retrospect’
Time is perhaps the greatest enemy of our carefully set priorities and of our control over our lives. The unexpected can expose the futility of a well-developed plan, or the millisecond that changes everything. 
RETROSPEKT plays with this absurdity by giving it a central role in the film itself and in its structure. This playing with time is an essential part of the audience’s experience of RETROSPEKT. The narrative’s non-linear chronology is a necessity that results in a feeling of displacement and disorientation that is essential for an awareness of Mette’s perspective. This physical framing lets Mette fluctuate between what she was, what she is, and what she wants to be but can’t. 

Motherhood and its associated social expectations
The film also deals with the self-evident expectation of unconditional maternal love, not only from mothers but from women in general. Some mothers do not hold babies above all else. This is all too often confused with postnatal depression, which is something I deliberately did not thematise in the film, because it would have implied that women who are not instantly smitten with their newborn children can only be regarded as victims of hormonal imbalance. As I see it, this is a simplistic and outdated perception that needs to be addressed, socially and across the world. (Esther Rots)

Production Hugo Rots, Gijs van de Westelaken, Esther Rots, Chantal van der Horst, Ellen De Waele. Production companies Rots Filmwerk (Amsterdam, Netherlands), Column Film (Amsterdam, Netherlands), Serendipity (Sint-Antelinks, Belgium). Written and directed by Esther Rots. Cinematography Lennert Hillege. Editing Esther Roths. Music Dan Geesin. Sound design Dan Geesin. Sound Kwinten Van Laethem. Production design Kurt Rigolle. Costumes Ann Lauwerys. With Circé Lethem (Mette), Lien Wildemeersch (Lee Miller), Martijn van der Veen (Simon), Teun Luijkx (Klaas), Lottie Hellingman (Lauren), Frederique & Felice de Bruijn (Harrie).

Premiere September 08, 2018, Toronto Film Festival


2002: Speel met me / Play With Me (12 min.). 2003: Ik ontspruit / I Sprout (15 min.). 2005: Dialoogoefening no. 1: Stad / Dialogue Exercise No. 1: City (10 min.). 2009: Kan door huid heen / Can Go Through Skin (97 min., Forum 2009). 2011: Evolution of Sorts (8 Min., co-directed by Dan Geesin). 2018: Retrospekt.

Photo: © Lennert Hillege

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur