On the surface, Black Out seems like a riff off director Guy Ritchie’s earlier crime films, where flashy camera work, pinpoint editing, and witty dialogue ruled the day. Black Out contains such ingredients, but considering this Holland project was made, in director Arne Toonen’s words, on a”shoestring budget,” the finished product is a pretty impressive accomplishment.
The story centers on an ex-crook (Raymond Thiry) whose desire to live a straight and arrow life takes a turn for the worse. His excitement for his impending wedding is marred after waking up with having no memory of killing the dead man that’s on his bed. But murder isn’t the only thing our protagonist must face, as fellow criminals and the police believe he may have stolen twenty kilos of cocaine.
One of the film’s many strengths is its strong visual design. Even with minimal funds, Black Out is definitely pleasing to the eye, and part of Toonen’s singular vision stems from his extensive pre-production work as well as ample use of mood boards to give the film a more specified, painterly canvas. “I’m always attaching tons of images into every scene in order for all heads of departments to get an idea of what I want a scene to look like,” said Toonen, who shot the film with two Red One cameras.
I ask Toonen, whose next goal is to direct a film stateside, if he has any advice for novice directors. “I definitely encourage any one who wants to pick a camera and make a film and exercise themselves in the art of filmmaking,” said Toonen. “And by telling a story through images. I think the biggest challenge for anyone is to use as less words as possible.”
“I started off with two VHS recorders and (doing) linear editing,” added Toonen, who began making films at 19. “It was so much fun. You had to really think. It was a big puzzle. Nowadays it so much easier and the quality of everything.”
Hopefully Toonen’s aesthetic will navigate its way through the studio system, especially since Hollywood definitely needs more directors who know how to successfully mount genre driven projects and work within a reasonable budget.
“My big dream of making film is to reach as large an audience as possible and entertain people and give them something to talk about,” said Toonen. “Basically showing something that they want but they don’t necessarily expect.”
Black Out is now playing in select cities and is also available on VOD. To check out my review, take a gander at Hollywood Outbreak.