Mark Vluggen Mark Vluggen Sacha Ruland

“I prefer my movies in the morning”

Written by  Annelotte Huiskes Wednesday, 24 October 2012 07:47

Every year he watches at least 200 films, 40 of them at the Cannes Film Festival. For Mark Vluggen, Cannes is the recurring highlight of his year. An assistant professor in Information Management at the School of Business and Economics, Vluggen is also the editor in chief of the film magazine of Maastricht’s arthouse cinema, the Lumière, and a film critic for the university newspaper Observant.

It’s not the glitz and glamour that draws him to Cannes each year. And no, he has no particular favourite actor or actress; the more famous they are, the more they distract from the film. He is mainly interested in directors who build up an oeuvre and bring something new to the screen. The film itself takes centre stage for him – that’s what he comes to see. Despite the fact that it’s often far too busy in Cannes; that you spend endless hours waiting in line and too much money on a hotel room. “It is and always will be a special festival. This is where films are unveiled to the world. What’s more exciting than watching the new Lars von Trier or Haneke at nine in the morning? No one’s seen it yet and you’re one of the 2000 people who get to be the first.”

The morning shows are his favourite. As he sees it, it’s a flaw in the system that people tend to go to the cinema at night. “You should watch a film when you’re nice and relaxed. You wouldn’t take a tour of the Louvre at ten in the evening, would you? I also think movies should be seen in the cinema, not on DVD. To me, watching a movie at home is like looking at a print rather than the real painting.”


Vluggen sees most films at Cannes and other festivals in Berlin, Rotterdam and Vlissingen before they hit the Lumière. He has been writing for the Lumière film magazine for over five years, and now serves as its editor in chief. As of July, the magazine is available online only; the last printed issue had just been released at the time of this interview. “It’s a real shame because the printed word will always be a more tangible verification of your work”, Vluggen says. “But the board wanted a new website with an online magazine instead.”

The magazine is not the only thing to change. In 2014, the cinema will move to a bigger location at the Timmerfabriek in Maastricht. “If you want to survive as a cinema, you need to invest in good infrastructure: bigger theatres, better equipment and a larger screen. If the Lumière hadn’t taken this step, in ten years it would barely be clinging to life at its current location.” Already daydreaming about the grand opening, he can’t wait for the big day. Could they get Golden Palm winner Haneke or Pedro Almódovar to Maastricht?


The Lumière has played an important role in his cinematographic development. This is where, as an economics student, he first discovered the higher breed of movie: the artistic film. “It’s not something I was brought up with. I come from a very working-class Limburg family. My father’s love of film was limited to the statement ‘there needs to be bullets’. I watched all the great westerns and war films with him. We must have watched the war classic The Guns of Navarone at least 12 times. But the films that really made the deepest impression were the ones I saw during my student days. At home we read the Limburger. When I started reading the Volkskrant as a student, I discovered how expertly the artistic film was ignored in the Limburger. I also discovered that we had an arthouse cinema in Maastricht. The first film that made a real impact on me was Naked by Mike Leigh: a film about a homeless man on the outskirts of London who predicts the end of the world. I’d never seen anything quite so stark and dismal.”

Film critic

Never harbouring ambitions to become a filmmaker, Vluggen prefers to write about films instead. “The challenge for me is presenting a film in 150 words and making sure the right audience goes to the right movie. That’s the fun part. I also like writing opinion pieces, which I get to do for the Observant and the online magazine now too. Unfortunately, the film critic is a dying breed. With the disappearing of the elite, there’s less respect for the true connoisseur; everyone’s a film critic these days. I also think the quality of film reviews leaves a lot to be desired. The reviews in the Volkskrant are practically interchangeable. Too few critics have their own style and voice.”

Mark’s film tip:
“This year, the top prize at Cannes went to the Austrian director Michael Haneke, who won the Golden Palm a few years ago with Das Weisse Band. His new film Amour (expected release date: November) is his most tender film to date. It follows an elderly couple’s struggle with the wife’s dementia. Haneke is not inclined to pathos and sentiment, opting instead to examine ageing and our inevitable decline in a meticulous and very honest way. It’s a film that will haunt you for days.”


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