Writer/Director Tom van den Broek sets himself up with the seemingly impossible task of creating a timeless classic in the frame of 14-minutes. The result is his magnus opus, Of Guilt and Grief, the likes of which would make feature filmmakers Peter Kosminsky (Wuthering Heights-1992) and William Dieterle (Portrait of Jenny-1948) beam with pride.
Though van den Broek’s non-linear fantasy appears to be set in Victorian England, it clearly transcends time and place in a very credible way; his story is really very simple and universal. It is about an old man named Simeon (Stuart Adams) who is presumably married to a young artist named Celestina (Eloise Black). His love dissipates to jealousy, and then obsession, when Celestina runs off with a young poet and becomes pregnant. Celestina lies to, and then taunts the broken old man, basically provoking him to kill her. It is what happens after the crime of passion that sets Tom van den Broek apart from any other filmmaker encountered in a long time. In fact, if I could give this film a 10-star-rating, it would not be enough.
Of Guilt and Grief is a gorgeous yet intelligent film that explores those age old questions that baffled philosophers and poets from time immemorial. Inquiries such as: Can the past, present, and future co-exist on one plane? And perhaps even more provocatively: Can the living communicate with the dead, in a manner not considered insane? These days, it is the stuff of Vampire Diaries— but obviously not novel, by any means.
To create such limitless lines of magic in a tiny experimental-narrative structure is beyond belief. But van den Broek not only manages this task, he compels us into this world in a manner that is not questioned for a millisecond. Visually magnificent, impeccably acted, and with a hypnotic score by principal composer Kevin Macleod, Of Guilt and Grief is a force we can not ignore. I literally cannot wait to see what Tom van den Broek creates next!
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