Bezeten, Het Gat in de Muur

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Nils Janssen (Dieter Geissler), a medical student, can’t stop spying on his mysterious neighbor through a tiny hole in the wall. His journalist girlfriend, Marina (Alexandra Stewart), begins to worry that Janssen is growing too obsessive about his neighbor. That all changes when Marina begins to suspect that some of what Nils has seen may connect to a story she’s working on about a drug racket. As the couple take to playing amateur sleuths they become more and more involved in the case, realizing too late that they are in over their heads.

Pim de la Parra’s debut feature Bezeten, Het Gat in de Muur (1969) displays the filmmaker’s admiration for Alfred Hitchcock and more specifically Rear Window (1954). As is the case with Body Double (1984) and Blue Velvet (1986), Bezeten, Het Gat in de Muur takes the themes and motifs of Hitchcock’s film and rearranges them around more contemporary sensibilities. In Pim de la Parra’s case Rear Window is reimagined as a sexploitation shocker stuffed with gratuitous nudity, bondage, and plenty of suspense.

Pim de la Parra does a commendable job creating tension via his mimicry of Hitchcock; it may not be entirely original but it does keep the viewer hooked. But Bezeten, Het Gat in de Muur isn’t known because it’s a serviceable thriller. It’s fame stems from the involvement of two much more mainstream and famous artists: Martin Scorsese and Bernard Herrmann.

Herrmann’s involvement was motivated by the same impulse that prompted Scorsese to enlist the composer to score Taxi Driver (1976). Both Bezeten, Het Gat in de Muur and Taxi Driver draw on the works of Alfred Hitchcock so employing the master of suspense’s favorite composer to score their films was the best way to position those films as a kind of continuation of what Hitchcock achieved. There’s a cultural credibility that comes from associating a new film with an established classic. The aesthetic continuity between Rear Window and Bezeten, Het Gat in de Muur translates, in the minds of viewers and critics, into the sphere of social relevancy. It’s as if Pim de la Parra is insisting that the argument that Hitchcock made in Rear Window regarding the inevitability of “peeping” and its morbid, death obsessive implications is still applicable in 1969. It’s a totally inconsequential argument on Pim de la Parra’s part since it is so obviously true.

Martin Scorsese came to the production of Bezeten, Het Gat in de Muur primarily to polish up the script. At the time Scorsese had one feature in the can, Who’s That Knocking At My Door? (1967), but was virtually unknown. As Scorsese’s notoriety grew his name began to appear more prominently in the promotional materials for Bezeten, Het Gat in de Muur. By the time Cult Epics released Bezeten, Het Gat in de Muur on Blu-Ray (under its english title Obsessions), Scorsese’s name appears on the front cover alongside Alfred Hitchcock.

The fact that Alfred Hitchcock’s name appears on the Cult Epics Blu-Ray covers is significant. It tells us that Pim de la Parra was successful in associating his thriller with the famous director. It also reveals that to the American consumer Bernard Herrmann’s contributions to both Bezeten, Het Gat in de Muur and Hitchcock’s films represents only a single facet of the Hitchcock aesthetic outside of which there is no autonomy nor significance. Ultimately, the inclusion of Hitchcock’s name speaks to the general obscurity of this film outside of Europe. In the U.S.A. there aren’t film students who include Pim de la Parra’s name on their list of favorite filmmakers.