Floor van der Meulen Interview – Director of ‘Pink Moon’ / Available On Streaming Rental or Purchase


What would you do if a perfectly healthy but aging parent said they were going to commit suicide, and there was no chance of dissuading them? Floor van der Meulen thinks we’d regress to childhood. After starting her career in short form and documentary film, the Dutch filmmaker makes a mark with her debut fiction feature Pink Moon, throwing a typical middle-class European family into jeopardy when an adult brother and sister have to help their father’s plan to end his life shortly after his 75th birthday. 

The sister, Iris (played by an exceptional Julia Akkermans), rejects the blasé nature of this startling development, and with a wry, sharp script from Bastiaan Kroeger, Pink Moon reveals the suffocation of family miscommunication. We talked to van der Meulen at the 2023 Glasgow Film Festival to unpack her singular film.

Projektor: What was culturally specific, or particularly Dutch, about the way these characters respond to the issue of assisted suicide?

Floor van der Meulen: Well, you can see the typical Dutch way in how the brother, Ivan [played by Eelco Smits], responds to and deals with the news. Maybe it’s a bit of a generalization, but I would say the Dutch people are very pragmatic; if something emotional or huge hits them, they will respond in a pragmatic way. Ivan comes up with a schedule and plans to sell the house, and it seems like he’s okay with it without any emotions. That is very Dutch. We tend to not really address the situation in an emotional way or talk about it, but rather like, “If that is truly your wish, we will try and help you because we love you.”

Is that why our main character, Iris, is someone who can’t do that?

I would say so. Bastiaan and me, we are a bit romantic, in the sense that we wish we would talk more and respond more emotionally. In a way, it’s easy to facilitate and not deal with it, [rather than asking] “Why are so many elderly people wanting to die?” I think Iris is the way we would like people to respond or how we would respond ourselves if it was our parents. She’s this 30-year-old woman who’s thrown back into being a child.

How long was it before you and Baastian started sharing ideas about suicide? Did you respond to each other’s work because you were drawn to these taboos?

It started for me with wanting to make a story about a father-daughter relationship. Specifically the generation of my father—I think there’s a lot of men of the baby boomer generation that are not comfortable talking about their emotions. They’re very mysterious. Then I met Bastiaan and he had a similar relationship with his father, who was declining quite rapidly. That put the image of death into our collaboration.

We’re very much involved as storytellers with what goes on in society and in how humans respond to that. In the Netherlands, there was a huge discussion about this subject, so I think it was Bastiaan who said, “What if this father actually announces he wants to die, and we have this ticking time bomb of a story?”

In the credits, you thank [Dutch actor] Rutger Hauer. What’s the story behind that?

While writing, I thought the father had to be this iconic figure that we don’t want to lose, and there’s only one actor in the Netherlands that is that, and that’s Rutger Hauer. I approached him in the Berlinale with an early script and he was intrigued; he was interested in talking and collaborating. Then at one point, he didn’t respond anymore. His wife called to say he had passed away very suddenly. It’s always interesting if you work on a certain theme, then it’s everywhere around you somehow. Making a film about someone wanting to die and then the main actor actually dying is kind of crazy.

In Western societies and modern times, it’s more and more about ourselves. We focus on the individual; we don’t even think maybe we could hurt others. 

Johan Leysen [who plays the father, Jan] and Julia Akkermans have an incredible chemistry between them. How did you work on the relationship between the two characters?

The most important thing for me was to have a family you believe is an actual family. We put a lot of effort into casting, multiple rounds that put different father-daughter couples together to see the reaction and chemistry, and when I saw Johan and Julia together, it just clicked. He’s from Belgium originally, but Julia also grew up in Belgium, so in that sense they share some background. Once we found them, we put a lot of effort in rehearsing. We also went to a holiday home together for like a week, just to be together and create a family dynamic. I think families all have their unspoken traditions and ways of doing things. Johan is the opposite of his character in real life, because sometimes in between shooting I found him outside, like, talking to himself. He was really angry with this character.

The film suggests we should allow a certain type of selfishness about this situation. Did you want to grant the characters this, or would you even call their behaviour “selfish”?

A lot of people watch this film and say, “Oh, this father is a complete asshole.” But I would say father and daughter mimic each other in their egos. It’s her ego saying, “I want my dad in my life, I don’t want you to go, it has to be on my terms when you go.” And he goes, “Yeah, no. I want to do it on my terms.” I see a lot of this struggle, ego versus the collective. In Western societies and modern times, it’s more and more about ourselves. We focus on the individual; we don’t even think maybe we could hurt others. 

At the same time, I think the character of Jan also says, “I don’t want to become dependent on you.” It’s sort of sacrificing oneself, but with two different perspectives that don’t line up. If you don’t talk, you don’t really connect. For me, the ego is a big part of what is in the way of true connection or understanding each other.

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