Frog Eats Stork
Mr. Frog (Meester Kikker), the second feature of Dutch director Anna van der Heide, is a fine appreciation of children’s imagination and creativity. Based on the popular children’s book by the best-selling Dutch writer Paul van Loon, the film (for children aged 6+) is a non-manipulative and non-patronizing account of the pure nature of a child’s perception of reality.
Mr. Frog is the story of the little girl Sita (Yenthe Bos), who is determined to make her school project about frogs, when she realizes that the bare mention makes her teacher Frans (Jeroen Spitzenberger) behave strangely, to say the least. Namely, he turns into a frog. Sita is trying to help the teacher and also tries to involve her mother, who is a busy veterinarian so obsessed with animals that she can not keep the promises she makes to her own daughter – not even a simple one, such as baking a kuglof cake for the school’s anniversary celebration. Things get even more complicated for Sita when the school gets a new headmaster, the strict and square Mr. Stork (Paul Kooij), who occasionally turns into a stork and goes after – the frog. Sita starts a mission with her classmates to save Mr. Frans, and at times this seems easier than persuading the adults that people can really turn into frogs.
The director Anna van der Heide weaves her story on the characters of Sita and Mr. Frans as pillars, played with ease, charm and humor by the talented little girl Yenthe Bos and by Jeroen Spitzenberger, who create a dynamic duo that moves the narration and sets the rhythm for the film. Spitzenberger plays the role of the favorite teacher with a mischievous touch; he seems to be the only adult who understands the children’s perception of reality, and that makes him their equal. And the children are his confidantes.
The subplot about the relation of the child and her almost negligent mother is developed with care and with a simple, but gentle touch.
The cinematography is slick and colorful, with a shiny hyper-realistic glow. The special effects are discreet – when Mr. Frans starts turning into frog, only his eyes glare and his hands turn green and puffy. The realistic special effects help to establish the credibility of the fact that people turn into frogs and storks. It is this realism that makes the story told and seen from a child’s point of view.
I watched the film in the cinema full of kids at the 21st SCHLINGEL International Film Festival in Chemnitz, and the children were so attentive that they did not move. (Mr. Frog got the Honourable Mention of the Ecumenical Jury).
In Holland, Mr. Frog was among eleven films in consideration for the Dutch submission for the Best Foreign Language Film to the 89 th Academy Awards, loosing to Tonio.
Edited by Birgit Beumers
© FIPRESCI 2016