A Man Falls From the Sky

By Jan Verdijk and Kurt Platvoet | Drama
A couple sees a man fall from the sky and deals with it in their own way.

Ton and his wife Ineke are settling into their afternoon when a man falls from the sky, landing with a thud in their garden. As they investigate, the man comes back to consciousness, but the couple runs back inside, where they argue about whether or not to call the police.

Tensions escalate between the couple as they differ on what to do with the man outside. The husband wants to ignore what happened; the wife feels obligated to help. When the conflict comes to a head, the couple reveals just who they are to one another.

Darkly funny and deeply ironic, this short comedy — written and directed by Jan Verdijk and Kurt Platvoet — can initially be framed in multiple ways. It could easily be a snapshot of ordinary people going to absurd lengths to maintain the status quo, or a confirmation of how people hide their darker hostilities, which comes out when their normality is threatened.

The film is shot in the style of a muted, almost washed-out naturalism distinctive of many European films. But the somber tonality of the visuals is often undercut by a jazz-like score, lending an almost farcical slant to the proceedings, which escalates as Ton and Ineke try to figure out what to do with the man lying in their garden.

Ton wants to ignore the problem outside his window, and is hostile to it; Ineke wants to invite the man in, offer him a place to sleep in their daughter’s old room and give him tea. Both of their responses are treated in precise, focused writing with gentle but biting humor and a wry, ironic eye for how far the characters — particularly Ton — will go to achieve what they want.

Actors Raymond Thiry and Jacqueline Blom offer performances that straddle both the drama and comedy demands of the narrative. They both react with understated honesty and precision from their characters’ respective points of view, but the comedy comes from how they only respond to what’s outside their window. There’s no attempt to find out what’s happening, or where the man came from, or even to call an ambulance. Instead, all their energy is focused on the problem in their backyard, which they go about solving in their own ways. The dueling approaches eventually spill out into the open, leading to an ugly confrontation and a tragic result.

“A Man Falls From the Sky” achieves a certain eccentricity in watching its characters go about solving a seemingly outlandish problem with great seriousness. But in its final images, it achieves a deeper resonance as a parable, as Ton and Ineke’s peaceable enclave is invaded by more falling bodies. The indelible sight of this phenomenon becomes a metaphor, perhaps, for the divided response to global migration, which is a continuation of the almost ancient tension between hostility and welcome. “A Man Falls From the Sky” offers a unique way of framing the problem, but it also doesn’t shy away from the truth that this is a storm that is only going to gain in strength.

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