Often referred to in the German press as “The Dutch Fassbinder”, Edwin Brienen has made an impressive 14 feature films the past ten years. Both wildly creative and ceaselessly prolific, Brienen has also brought out numerous short films as well as a growing collection of highly distinctive music videos for internationally acclaimed artists such as Joachim Witt and Bunny Lake. As a long-time producer/director/screenwriter, Edwin is one of the last true independent filmmakers with a standout style and vision.
After studying philosophy and psychology, Edwin Brienen embarked on a career as a radio host at the age of 22. His programs for the Dutch broadcasting association, VPRO, attracted a nationwide following. Edwin became one of the most famous voices on 3FM (the leading radio station in Holland) with programs such as Koud Zweet and De Moordlijst. On television, he starred in the underground series Ultra Vista! Additionally, he directed (during a two and a half year hiatus from the VPRO) several much talked about programs for Veronica Television, including Buch, Burgers & Buitenlui and Hoe Hoort het Eigenlijk? with Theo van Gogh.
In 2001, Edwin wrote, directed and edited his debut feature film Terrorama!, a dark story about a group of dispirited individuals who seek out ‘psychological freedom’ by committing an act of terror. That same year, Brienen renewed his association with the VPRO and in September, 2001, created a series for them about the New York underground scene. While working on location, he witnessed the attack on the World Trade Center and was moved to cancel the NY premiere of Terrorama!
Nonetheless, Terrorama! went on to win several awards at international film festivals, notable among them being Esther Eva Verkaaik’s distinction as Best Leading Actress at the Toronto Independent Film Festival.
In September, 2004, Brienen’s follow-up feature Lebenspornografie was finally released (the film was originally shot two years earlier but due to legal problems was held back for release). A later film, Both Ends Burning was first screened in 14 Dutch theatres during the Brienen Festival in January 2005. ARTE TV broadcasts a documentary about Brienen, wherein his work and intensity were compared to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. A further work, the dark comedy Why Ulli Wanted to Kill Himself on Christmas Eve premiered in mid-December 2005, in several German theatres.
In 2006, Brienen returned to his theatre roots with Loaded, which premiered at the Berlin Sophiensaele during “the long weekend of free theatre” in May of that year. Not one to neglect his film work, Brienen concurrently completed the American/Dutch co-production Last Performance (about the self-inflicted downfall of a woman in the theatre world of New York), which premiered at the Netherlands Film Festival of 2006. In June of that same year, the feature film Edwin Brienen’s Hysteria was released in German cinemas. Later that year, while working on the film I’d Like to Die a Thousand Times, Brienen also found time to shoot music videos for London based band Noblesse Oblige, as well as Neue Deutsche Welle star Joachim Witt.
Together with Thomas van Aalten, Brienen wrote the post-apocalyptic script for the abstract film L’amour Toujours, which had its world premiere on May 3, 2008, during the Brienen Tribute Festival in Amsterdam. The film stars Das Boot actor Erwin Leder. Meanwhile, Brienen also began to film Revision – Apocalypse II, featuring another leading role for Brienen stalwart Eva Dorrepaal.
In May 2009, Brienen began work on Viva Europa!, a film that deals with the reunification of Germany and is set on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The film enjoyed a successful premiere at the Berlin Volksbühne on November 8th, 2009. The prestigious Goethe Institute also arranged further screenings in the Netherlands.
After a long delay, 2010 saw the premiere of Revision – Apocalypse II at the 30th edition of the Netherlands Film Festival.
More recently, Edwin finished shooting two films about filmmaking: Exploitation and Phantom Party, both featuring British actor Tomas Sinclair Spencer (who also stars along with Helen Mirren in The Last Station). Lena will es endlich wissen (Lena Wants to Know Once and For All) was premiered at the Berlin Volksbühne in March 2011. Afterward, Brienen started working for German WDR Radio and created the radio drama Als der Satan laufen lernte (When Satan learned to walk) about Anton LaVey, starring many of Edwin’s main actors, Agnieszka Rozenbajgier and Godehard Giese.
So far, Filmfreak Distribution has released seven ground-breaking Brienen films to European audiences on DVD. Brienen’s first five films: Terrorama!, Lebenspornografie, Both Ends Burning, Last Performance and Hysteria were released together as The Brienen Collection, which is available in the Benelux and Germany. Additionally, 2012 saw the release of Revision – Apocalypse II and Viva Europa! on DVD.
In October 2012, the Lausanne Film and Music Festival in Switzerland honoured Brienen by presenting a retrospective of his films, including the world premiere of Exploitation.