The Belgians look forward to it with bated breath, just like top chef Sergio Herman and mussel breeder Henk. Along with many others. The start of the mussel season. But how does this shellfish end up on our plates? And why do we love it so?
In Mussels in Love light is shed on the life of the Zeeland mussel in an intimate, down-to-earth manner. We observe its complete life cycle: the mussel that loves, the mussel that holds on with all its might, and the mussel that is cast off by the storm.
On its way, the mussel encounters passionate enthusiasts who also fall in love, struggle and overcome. Biologist Annelies introduces us to the sexual habitat of mussels. Then she becomes pregnant – by the mussel man.
Top chef Sergio, after a love-hate relationship with the shellfish, now specializes in preparing it. Gynaecologist Jan uses the glue mussels makes to save the lives of unborn babies. And then there’s the phenomenon of the mussel princess.
Willemiek Kluijfhout is a film director based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Since 2000 she has been writing and directing award-winning short films and documentaries that have been shown on festivals, and broadcasted, around the world. She loves films, food and philosophy and above all the combination. The malleability of life is the most important theme in all of her works.
L’AMOUR DES MOULES (MUSSELS IN LOVE) was her first feature- length documentary. It was the opening film of the Culinary Cinema at the Berlinale 2013 and won the best Cinema poster prize 2012. It was released in September 2012 in 25 theatres in the Netherlands and Belgium and represented by International Sales Agent Autlook Filmsales.
My gran and granddad lived on the dyke in Yerseke, a village famous for its oysters and mussels. The only auction where each mussel is classed by its size, flavour and weight takes place there. Each year there's an enormous mussel festival. From an early age, I was taken along to the festivals. As a child I was horrified by the sight of the hideous creatures. If I looked at them for too long, I started to feel sick. Luckily, my gran didn't eat mussels. She was seriously allergic to them, which felt like heresy in a mussel village like Yerseke. Swimming in the oyster ponds, the smell of seaweed, mussels and the sound of the mussel cutters, the beautiful shells gleaming in the sun; these were things I did like, though.
I've filmed on a mussel boat regularly in the last few years. I fell under the spell of the pure, natural way in the which the mussels are reared, and the knowledge and resilience of the mussel fishermen and the world they live in. I started to become fascinated by the mussels themselves. By their flavour and their complex, secret nature. The mussel lives for almost three years before it ends up on our plates. It is a headstrong creature and will only grow and develop flavour in the right conditions. It has to do with the tides and the levels of salt in the sea off Zeeland. No mussel man truly knows the secret. The mussel must be looked after correctly and must not suffer too much stress. The threads of the mussel can stick in damp circumstances and hold firm for centuries. This is as natural wonder like no other. No scientist has been able to copy it.
During the making of the documentary, the life of mussels started to resonate more and more with the life of the main character; the mussel that loves, the mussel that sates itself on water, the mussel that seeks a safe place to cling to and is cast off by the storm. In the film I ended up making, I went in search of the points where mussel and man fuse. I wanted to emphasise the moments of mystery, beauty, brutality (and inevitability) in the mussel's life cycle.
Directed by Willemiek J.A. Kluijfhout
Writer - Willemiek J.A. Kluijfhout
Editor - Govert Janse, Dieter Diependaele
Dop - Remko Schnorr
Sound - Marc Lizier, Govert Janse
Music - Tuur Florizoone
Film by the Sea Festival (NL)
CPH-DOX, Kopenhagen (DK)
Nederlands Film Festival, Utrecht (NL)
Co-produced with Trueworks (NL)
With the support of Dutch Film Fund, MEDIA Fund and Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF), B-Architects, vzw Docaddict, Omroep Zeeland, Provincie Zeeland and Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.
Subtitles: English, Dutch