Euthanasia — a passionate debate renewed in recent days — is a very serious business. But if you want a more accessible and touching learning experience on the topic, I can highly recommend the Dutch film Simon, directed by Eddy Terstall.
Not, though, if you are a homophobic, xenophobic Catholic crusader against hedonism, because this movie had all one might expect of a late-night SBS foreign language film, a Dutch one at that. Lashings of s-x, drugs and rock and roll. And, euthanasia!
Set in Amsterdam and Thailand, it tells of an unlikely friendship from a chance meeting in their youth of a sensitive gay dentist Camiel, and Simon, a freewheeling, rough but charming member of the Amsterdam drug café society, circa 1980s. It employs the natural school of filmmaking to great effect with terrific performances by the whole cast — friends, lovers, wives and children — spanning several decades and told partly in flashback. Simon is played with great charm by Cees Geel, who won a Best Actor award for this role at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival.
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Because it is really the overall texture and execution of the movie that is special, it is not a spoiler to reveal that Simon develops incurable brain cancer and we follow his decision and life leading to euthanasia.
No doubt the film glamorises things, especially with the rather exotic Amsterdam lifestyle and the charismatic Simon, but independent of the subject matter it is a very watchable movie. Shamelessly sentimental to be sure — it will make you laugh and make you cry — but it also has something to contribute to the debate. Perhaps some of our politicians should watch …
The details: Simon aired on SBS last week. The DVD isn’t released in Australia but can be found on eBay and on bit torrent platforms.