1-900 (aka 06)

Dir: Theo van Gogh, 1994. Starring: Ariane Schluter, Ad van Kempen. Foreign.
1-900 (aka 06)
Using a cast of only two people and a set of two homes, 1-900 attempts to explore the dynamics of a relationship between two people who can't have a functional relationship with someone they can physically approach. Through a sex hotline, a woman named Sarah (Ariane Schluter) describes herself as an art enthusiast and an open-minded intellect. A man named Thomas (Ad van Kempen) responds to her ad with his phone number, and Sarah calls him back on a Thursday night. The awkwardness of their first conversation is no different than that which occurs during a first date. They inquire about past marriages, children, age, occupation and so on. The man claims to be 33, with features that are a far cry from reality. The woman does the same, except she presents herself as someone more “ethnic” than she really is. The imagination aspect to the experience distracts them from the sole purpose of the hotline. So, seeing as how they did in fact meet through a sex agency, they eventually try to move the conversation towards sex. Neither of them actually undresses nor makes a motion to participate. It shows through Sarah’s giggling and Thomas's fear of being mocked by her, or worse, overheard by someone who may or may not be in the room with her. The conversation ends despairingly, but Sarah calls back the following Thursday and wholeheartedly starts to participate. Thomas is then more than happy to oblige.

On Thursdays Sarah continues to call and the two slowly warm up to and become dependent on each other’s company. Thomas is an architect who loves boring people with his passion for creating structures. Sarah is an art professor who shares secrets that do more than provoke. Their conversations don't always lead to having mutual phone sex; sometimes one of them will pretend to listen to the other talk while secretly getting-off on the sound of the other’s voice. Both Sarah and Thomas become too comfortable and, in their own right, selfish with their desires. Jealousy becomes a factor in their relationship when Sarah’s actual rendezvous with people outside of what they share are claimed, by Thomas, to constitute infidelity. While he's under the impression that he is “in her soul” and a real part of her life, she constantly reminds him that their circumstances are anything but soulful. Thomas's frustration over her power (she hasn't disclosed her own number and always calls him) starts to create larger problems. His prying becomes threatening when he discovers her real name and address by chance. With the possibility of him digging into her past and discovering her biggest secret, or ruining her good name, the two grow apart and lose the magic of anonymity.

The heightened investment the viewer has with the two characters is due to the concentration on their seemingly uneventful lives. You hear of their activities outside the home, but you never see them; you don't know if their stories are real or contrived to keep things interesting. This trapped feeling of being an unmovable fly on the wall creates an uncomfortable and sometimes infuriating position. You can't help but root for them when you see them dancing in separate rooms to the same song or playing a game of chess over the phone. At the same time, you can't help but choose sides in their arguments, which at times seem so vicious and real that it's like seeing your parents argue over sex, infidelity, and other extremely personal issues. The process of their deterioration is unfamiliar to most, but the advancement of it is all too familiar.

The film's ending doesn't grant any sort of desirable closure or rewarding solutions for the characters, and thus, since you can't help but be so involved, you are also denied such answers. The same kinds of feelings can come from watching a very minimal and depressing stage play, but here it is amplified by a camera's role of the menacing intruder. The director, Theo van Gogh, did a wonderful job creating this atmosphere, and Schluter and van Kempen pulled off the characters with humility, charisma, and bravery. If I had to compare the feeling of it to another film, I'd have to say Fassbinder's The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, but more powerful because the deception is somewhat merited, or at least called for. The hotline presents an anonymous game of imagination that simply got out of hand. I recommend it to those who enjoy, or are at least curious about, exploring the lives of two lovers in an unabashed way.

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Aug 12, 2011 5:09pm
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