pentimento n. a visible trace of an earlier painting beneath a layer or layers of paint on canvas. – The New Oxford American Dictionary
Pentimento is 1979 feature length experimental film directed by Dutch filmmaker Frans Zwartjes.
Like all of Zwartjes’ other films, it is an attempt to evoke intense emotions through stylized depiction of extreme acts. Zwartjes provides no temporal or geographic context for the film and drapes its atmosphere with an icy blue hue and an ominous soundtrack. The film’s sole historical context is an oblique reference to the dubious medical experiments performed on human beings by the infamous Unit 731 of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. In a drab severe facility set in a desolate part of an unknown country, Japanese doctors perform cruel medical experiments and sexual torture on buxom European women who are rounded up by the institution’s staff.
Screenings of the feature length Pentimento (1979) were disrupted in Rotterdam by feminists who stormed the projection booth, outraged that the filmmaker was receiving public subsidy. In several instances both the projector and the film were ejected onto the street.
Frans Zwartjes is a Dutch artist, filmmaker, musician, violin-maker, painter and sculptor, best known for his experimental films.
Frans Zwartjes was born in 1927 in Alkmaar, Noord-Holland, Netherlands. In the late sixties he causes a furor with artistic black-and-white films in which heavily made up and over-dressed actors (such as the performance artist Moniek Toebosch) are caught in a web of sexually loaded power games; hysteria, psychosis and cruelty are among his regular themes. The oeuvre of Zwartjes, once called “the most important experimental filmmaker of his time” by the American essayist Susan Sontag, includes over fifty films.