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Film / Village by the River

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Villiage by the River (aka "The Village on the River") is a 1958 film from The Netherlands directed by Fons Rademakers.

It's the story of a country village and its doctor, Dr. Van Taeke. The good doctor is the typical sort of rural general practitioner of the 19th century (or at least that seems like the time setting; no cars or electric appliances are seen). He delivers babies, sometimes having to make hazardous trips across ice-choked rivers to do so. He treats stomach ailments as well as the local woman who has some sort of ghastly facial disfigurement. He earns the admiration of all the townsfolk, except for the burgomaster, who resents Van Take for being a source of authority independent of the burgomaster himself.


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  • Danger: Thin Ice: One whole setpiece has Van Taeke going off to attend to a woman in childbirth. The only problem is that the woman in question is on the other side of the river, which is getting choked up with ice. After the ferryman flatly refuses to take him, Van Taeke goes on foot, struggling across the ice floes. Somehow, he makes it there and back and delivers a baby.
  • Death Glare: At Dr. Van Taeke's jubilee the burgomaster, who is essentially forcing the doctor into retirement, gives an insincere smarmy speech about how much the people of the town value him. The doctor knows what is happening and his response is a scary Death Glare.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Mrs. Van Taeke suffers from some form of illness. Her husband urges her not to give in to fear. Eventually she dies. The disease is never named, but she never coughs, so it must be cancer.
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  • Driven to Suicide: The constant nagging of Long Lent's wife drives him to kill himself.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The burgomaster doffs his hat to a passing Dr. Van Taeke, who merely nods curtly in return. The burgomaster gets all huffy and complains to his flunky about Van Taeke's lack of respect. This establishes the burgomaster as haughty and arrogant and hostile to Van Taeke.
  • The Faceless: Mammeke, who has caught some sort of disfiguring disease and as a consequence never shows her face, hiding it behind a large scarf.
  • Henpecked Husband: Poor Long Lent, who was nagged so much by his wife that he killed himself.
  • Hot Gypsy Woman: A comic interlude has Deaf Cis meeting a voluptuous Romani woman by the river. She lies down on the bank not far away from him, spreads her legs, and basically waves her vagina at him. Later she follows him into his houseboat, asks for food, and gives him sex as payment. The next morning has Cis wake up to find that the Romani woman has left and hitched back on to her caravan.
  • I Have This Friend...: The burgomaster goes to Van Taeke for a case of catarrh. Later, when trying to get the city council to fire the doctor, he says a friend went to the doctor for a case of catarrh and was charged fifty guilders.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: "I used to be a pretty girl", says Mammeke, who now suffers some sort of ghastly facial deformity, apparently from syphillis. She hides her face with a large headscarf.
  • Narrator: "Deaf Cis", who ekes out a meager living by poaching, and who admires Dr. Van Taeke immensely, tells the doctor's story.
  • Panicky Expectant Father: The first case involves a local farmer who frantically dashes over to Dr. Van Taeke's house to tell him that the baby is ready. The farmer's hair pulling agitation is contrasted humorously with Van Taeke, who knows the baby isn't quite ready yet, so he sits and reads the paper while the farmer goggles at him.
  • Slice of Life: An episodic structure, dealing with some of the more interesting cases of a country doctor in the Netherlands.
  • Supporting Protagonist: The story is told from the POV of "Deaf Cis" the local poacher, who admires Dr. Van Taeke tremendously and tells his story.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: The burgomaster's insincere, two-faced speech at Van Taeke's 25th-anniversary ceremony, which the burgomaster is using to force Van Taeke into retirement, ends with the burgomaster giving the doctor an envelope with a thousand guilders. The doctor responds by calling the burgomaster a hypocrite, setting the envelope of cash on fire, and quitting anyway.
  • Toilet Humor: Deaf Cis is fleeing from the cops who want to arrest him for poaching. He dashes into the nearby bar, but, with nowhere else to hide, crawls down into the waste tank of the backyard outhouse. The cops don't catch him, but unfortunately for Cis, they decide to stay and have a beer after giving up the chase. Cis is still hiding in the tank of sewage when one of the cops goes into the outhouse to poop. Cut to the next scene, with gales of laughter at Cis's trial as he reveals how that was the exact point at which he'd had enough, and surrendered to the cops.
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