Although not exactly one of the director’s best films (in fact, I would argue that it is one of his worst and most primitive works), Ik kom wat later naar Madra (1965) aka That Way to Madra directed by criminally underrated auteur Adriaan Ditvoorst (De blinde Fotograaf aka The Blind Photographer, Flanagan) is considered such an important and revolutionary work of Dutch cinema history that it was selected as one of the sixteen films included in the ‘Canon of Dutch Cinema’ (aka Canon van de Nederlandse Film), which also includes Joris Ivens’ Rain (1929), Fons Rademakers’ Like Two Drops of Water (1963) aka Als twee druppels water, Frans Zwartjes’ Living (1971), Paul Verhoeven’s Turkish Delight (1973) aka Turks fruit, and Alex van Warmerdam’s The Northerners (1992) aka De Noorderlingen, among various other works spanning all of Netherlandish film history. Indeed, Ditvoorst’s film is important not only because it won tons of prizes and made a name for it's director, but also because it totally revolutionized Dutch cinema and introduced the auteur theory as inspired by La Nouvelle Vague to the Netherlands, which was completely behind much of Europe in terms of filmmaking. As a work that was praised by none other than Jean-Luc Godard, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Joris Ivens, Bernardo Bertolucci and other top European arthouse filmmakers of that time, That Way to Madra more or less single-handedly put Dutch cinema on the map, or as Suriname-born Sephardic Jewish auteur Pim de la Parra (Frank en Eva, Wan Pipel aka One People)—a man that helped revolutionize Dutch cinema in his own way by creating salacious sexploitation works with his oftentimes collaborator Wim Verstappen—stated in Thom Hoffman’s excellent documentary De Domeinen Ditvoorst (1992) aka Ditvoorst Domains regarding the director’s imperative influence, “He was one of the reasons that new Dutch films appeared in magazines. Cahiers du cinema, Sight & sound, and Italian and German magazines wrote about Adriaan’s work.” Like most of Ditvoorst’s work, the less than 30-minute-long short is unflatteringly, albeit somewhat cryptically, autobiographical and expresses that director’s innate anti-authority weltanschauung and iconoclastic approach to the cinematic language. Somewhat shockingly for a man that later lived completely off the grid and became a drug-addled dipsomaniac bum of sorts that hung out with punks and skinheads, Ditvoorst was a Dutch army officer before he ever became a filmmaker, so it should be no surprise that That Way to Madra takes place in a nightmarishly bureaucratic military setting where following protocol trumps the importance of life-and-death situations concerning loved ones. Beginning in a relatively straightforward, if not flagrantly cynical, fashion, Ditvoorst’s film abandons convention and logic at about the midway point and delightfully degenerates into a sort of Kafkaesque magical realist nightmare that not only attacks the Dutch military, but Dutch society in general, as well as the Roman Catholic Church that the southern Dutch director was reared in.
Indeed, although I only saw it for the first time just a couple months ago, I regard Ditvoorst’s swansong De witte waan (1984) aka White Madness—a work that is sort of like an exceedingly esoteric cinematic suicide letter that references everything from the director’s love of Comte de Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror and Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard to his loser lifestyle as a dope-addled quasi-bum who spent most of his free time hanging out with young punks and skinheads—is easily one of my favorite films of all time and it features many of the same themes explored in his first film, albeit taken to much further extremes. Notably, in That Way to Madra, Ditvoorst alludes to the fact that his father died in a car wreck, but for whatever reason, the filmmaker also thought that his dad's death was an act of self-slaughter, which was ultimately the way he would conclude his life. Undoubtedly, one of the most eerie scenes That Way to Madra is the surreal beach funeral, especially considering the fact that Ditvoorst would commit suicide by walking into the Scheldt River and drowning himself. Quite notably, actor Thom Hoffman, who played the lead role in White Madness, would later recreate the beach scene from Ditvoorst's first film for his directorial debut Ditvoorst Domains during a segment in the doc where the filmmaker's friends discuss his suicide. Of course, maybe if Ditvoorst had stayed in the Dutch army and lived the reasonably comfortable life of a commissioned officer instead of becoming a filmmaker he might not have walked into the sea, but then he would have deprived the world of some of the most ideally idiosyncratic films ever made. It should be noted that That Way to Madra was the first film that Dutch arthouse cinematographer turned blockbuster director Jan de Bont (Speed, Twister) had ever worked on. Of course, the fact that a hack like de Bont went on to become a rich and world famous Hollywood filmmaker while Ditvoorst died poor, destitute, and drug-addled is just one more of the many absurdities of life and surely something that the That Way to Madra director could have appreciated in his own weird way as a true starving artist and spiritual heir to Vincent van Gogh.