Tekst (smal)

Peter Hoogendoorn about Three Days of Fish

Interview by Nick Cunningham

The Dutch director talks to SEE NL about his second film, made a decade after his debut, but no less personal.

Still: Three Days of Fish - Peter Hoogendoorn

Ten years on from his debut feature Between 10 and 12, which world-premiered in Venice Days 2014, Dutch director Peter Hoogendoorn is back with another deeply personal film. While his debut was a study in grief inspired by the death of his sister, Hoogendoorn’s new drama-comedy focusses on the strained relationship between a son and his regularly absent father.
Father Gerrie lives abroad in Portugal with his second wife and comes back only for medical and dental check-ups. The time spent with his son Dick during these return visits is painfully short, and Dick worries that each time he sees his father will be the last. 
What ensues is a kind of road movie as Dick accompanies his dad on a perfunctory round of visits, such as to his best friend (whom Gerrie finds out has died while he was away, and whose late wife is now living with another man) and to his ill brother on his birthday. “Normally when you think you are going to share moments together, you plan to do nice things,” says Hoogendoorn of their low-key Rotterdam odyssey. “Maybe you go to a football stadium, you're going to eat with family and this kind of stuff. I found it so funny that Dick just walks along with his father to do those practical things.”
When it comes to bidding each other farewell, yes, the sense of awkwardness remains, but we can tell that love is in there somewhere. That said, the short time they are together seems more than enough, at least from the father’s perspective.
The title itself encapsulates the dilemma at the heart of the film. "It's a variation on the saying ‘Guests, like fish, start to smell after three days,’” says Hoogendoorn.

“The title symbolizes how much time you can spend with people before your true character begins to show. It's something I often see in relationships. When people don't know each other well, they initially try to present themselves better than they are. But gradually, their true selves resurface, which can determine whether their time together is short or long. This concept is also reflected in the film itself. The story spans three days, and fish is eaten every day.”

The film is imbued with a deep sense of melancholy, but is also very funny, even when grappling with tragic turns of events such as the removal of bones belonging to Dick’s mother from the cemetery due to his failure to open administrative mail. Nor is Dick averse to getting into a scrap or two, as we see when dealing with abusive customers in a supermarket.
Hoogendoorn’s film celebrates the ordinary, even while he admits that he would rather be making thrillers, but his particularly sensitive sense of aesthetic was recognised when he was at film school, and ten years on his talent for personal observation is further celebrated by producer Stienette Bosklopper of Circe Film. “She reacts more heavily on daily life things,” he says. “In everything you do, there is a sort of subtext or there is a sort of story. And she was reacting more on my relationship, and my being together with my father. So basically I wanted to make a thriller, but I got stuck again in the autobiographical stuff,” he quips.
Yes, Hoogendoorn’s own father does indeed live in Portugal with his second wife, and suffers the same lung complaint as his counterpart in the film. But the director’s relationship with his dad is much better than that between Gerrie and Dick, and therefore misses him a lot when he is away, which is why he retains regular contact. 
"It's not a given that you will see your loved ones tomorrow. Since the death of my mother and sister, this is something I have been very focused on and also quite fearful of. Impermanence, the fear of losing loved ones,” he underlines of the poignant message at the heart of the film. “I hope people leave the cinema thinking: let me call my grandmother, mother, or daughter whom I haven’t spoken to in three weeks. Because before you know it, you might not be able to.”

Three Days of Fish** will have its world premiere in the main competition Crystal Globe. The second feature film by screenwriter and director Peter Hoogendoorn is produced by Circe Films in co-production with Kaap Holland and the Belgian production house A Private View. Sales are handled by Heretic.

Find out more about KVIFF here.


*Film is supported by the Netherlands Film Fund
**Film is supported by the Production Incentive