Imagine if Oliver Stone’s Wall Street or David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross had a central character who was a high-functioning, somewhat autistic, man. This outstanding character study tosses aside predictable melodrama for nuances of eccentric behavior.
Ivan is a most peculiar individual. He sees the mathematics of love and attraction in addition to his day job, a high end stockbroker in The Netherlands, trading fortunes in the blink of an eye. At the beginning, he’s a promising trainee and his mentor takes a chance on him; it immediately pays off. But Ivan isn’t interested in wealth or lots of money—though he likes his new apartment—but rather the mathematical solving of problems of a vast complicated system.
The closest cinematic comparison I can give to Ivan is the protagonist of Darren Aronofsky’s Pi. But there’s no outright mental illness here or conspiracy theories. Instead is a portrait focusing solely on a unique character. Eccentricity rarely gets such a multi-faceted portrayal. Oscar Van Rompay embodies Ivan so completely that the very particular way he moves becomes just as important as anything he says or does. I asked Van Rompay in the screening’s Q&A if he had studied dance. He has not. This makes the performance all the more remarkable.
Examples of Ivan’s eccentric behavior: When he asks an attractive receptionist out on a date he does so in the third person as if positing a math theorem. When he takes her back to his place he shows her baby mice in a floor air duct like they were chicks fresh from eggs. When under a stressful crunch from work he goes out into the Amsterdam night. Instead of shacking up in the red light district he goes to a hostel with sleeping arrangements like army barracks. There are dozens of others that can be pointed out. His more normal side is shown too. Ivan reaches out to a shy co-worker in order to help him come out of his shell.
Writer-director Jaap van Heusden and Oscar Van Rompay are to be commended for making a financial industry boiler room drama that side-steps major clichés. Cinematographer Jan Moeskops shoots the cool corporate environment in a way that’s somehow captivating. The broad structure of a rise and fall story is present but Ivan is so unique that it feels fresh and new. Win/Win is one of this year’s best.