Few Europeans have deliberately riled up as much virulent and explosive controversy during their lifetimes as the muckraking Dutch director (and politically incendiary journalist) Theo van Gogh did during his all-too-brief 47 years; in the end, it led to van Gogh's murder on an Amsterdam street at the hands of a Muslim extremist.
The great-grandson of an earlier Theo Van Gogh (the art-dealer brother of Vincent), the younger Theo was born in The Hague in 1957. He cultivated a raw passion for filmmaking during his youth -- to such a degree that although he initially enrolled as a law student during the late '70s, the desire to direct motion pictures provoked his decision to drop completely out of law school and start shooting films. Van Gogh's directorial tendencies were not limited to ambition; they extended equally into the realm of talent. This ability first became evident with van Gogh's debut, the 1981 film noir variation Luger, which stars Thom Hoffman and the filmmaker himself. A Day at the Beach followed in 1984; it constitutes a series of heart-rending vignettes on the relationship between an alcoholic and his young daughter. 1986's Charley, 1987's Return to Oegstgeest, 1992's Vals Licht, and 1996's Blind Date followed, for which van Gogh won a Golden Calf, the Dutch equivalent of a Best Picture Oscar. Recalling the earlier Day at the Beach, the latter episodically recounts several drinking sessions in the Amsterdam Hilton between two former entertainers: a mother, recently bereft of her young daughter, and a middle-aged gentleman. These represent only a few van Gogh titles; he claims well over 25 directorial credits, but his work has (for better or worse) received scant worldwide critical attention, despite widespread raves in many Dutch quarters.