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The king of Dutch deadpan Alex van Warmerdam strikes again with the delightfully off-kilter Ober (Waiter), in which a fictional waiter (played with evident glee by the director himself) goes to complain about his miserable existence to his creator. Twenty years after his now-classic debut Abel, Van Warmerdam here proves that his unique combination of deadpan humour and quintessentially Dutch settings are still a winning team -- though one that could only be coached by the director himself. One of the film’s key scenes of Ober takes place about half an hour into the film, and not only perfectly explains the film’s dilemma, but also the way in which Van Warmerdam defies conventions and is always one step ahead of the audience. After a nasty fight with three businessmen -- who are regular customers -- ends with Edgar the hapless waiter (Van Warmerdam) facedown in the eatery’s aquarium, Edgar returns to the writer (Mark Rietman) who has created him to complain again: "I wanted to stand up against these guys and what did you give me? One lousy insult that got me into a fight! Who am I really? I’ve got no ambitions and no dreams". The writer, naked in bed with his pretty but busybody girlfriend (Thekla Reuten), tells Edgar he "has no purpose". "I’m a useless character, then," Edgar concludes, to which the writer answers: "No, not useless; a modern character!" Edgar groans: "A modern character? That’s so old hat! I’ve got a lot more to offer than you think!" Performances are all pitch-perfect, including Ariane Schluter as Edgar’s demanding mistress and Jaap Spijkers as his possibly even more miserable waiting colleague. Despite the fact that Edgar -- played to perfection by Van Warmerdam in a wonderfully understated performance -- is a fictive character, his courage and willingness to fight for a better destiny cannot but be admired. The way in which he arrives at his destiny is one of the highlights of the film’s closing scenes. - Boyd van Hoeij, European-Films.Net
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Directed by: 
Alex van Warmerdam
Running Time: 
Dutch with English subtitles
Alex van Warmerdam, Ariane Schluter, Thekla Rietman, Jaap Spijkers, Kees Prins, Lyne Renee
Screenplay by: 
Alex van Warmerdam

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