Directed by Jeroen Berkvens. Holland. 2000.

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Last year (2000) the Dutch filmmaker Jeroen Berkvens made a moving documentary about the British pop-singer and songwriter Nick Drake who died when he was just 26 years old.

The title comes from a quote from  Drakeís sister Gabrielle, an actress who said: ď I always say that Nick was born with a skin too few.Ē She is one of the main interviewees in this remarkable subtle, melancholic and beautifully photographed film. Other people involved are musician Paul Weller, Nickís friend Brian Wells and arranger Robert Kirby, among others.  Jeroen Berkvens, who studied at the St Joost Art School in Breda (NL),  tells Nickís  story in a chronological and biographical way. He portrays Nick in a compassionate and sensitive way. Not the usual run of the mill factual documentary, no far from that, more like a poem. 

One of the things that makes this film so special is the fact that Berkvens together with excellent cameraman Vladas Naudzius, creates images that reflect the mood of Nick Drakeís music. Another strong point is the economical way Berkvens cuts this film together, itís very assured and  focused and leaves out all the superfluous material. The film has a quiet and contemplative pace, which suits the subject entirely. 

The documentary opens in Burma, and takes us to Cambridge where Nick studied via London, where he recorded three albums, to the house of his parents, who are not alive anymore, where he withdrew more and more from the outside world. Itís really sad that an obviously talented musician like Nick Drake was so unhappy and lonely in his personal life. He also knew he had talent but felt frustrated by the lack of recognition. Thatís the most tragic fact that in  this society which is full of pseudo-talents,  the true artists are very often marginalised and neglected. Not much has changed since the days of Vincent van Gogh and Modigliani to name a few. His sister says in the film that he saw more than most  people and the more he saw the more he cut himself off from the world.

Now twenty odd years later he is suddenly re-discovered and his music appears in film, radio and TV commercials. On the flyer of the film it says: ďthe testimonies in A Skin Too Few describe an artist of integrity, who symbolises the destructive effect of loneliness.Ē 

Itís really encouraging to see that filmmakers such as Jeroen Berkvens are around who work with a compassionate eye, an assured touch and a refined and respectful  approach to their subject. I heard that the International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam rejected this gem of a documentary. An unbelievable blunder!!

To end on a more positive note, somewhere halfway through this film we hear the voice of Nickís mother reading a beautiful touching poem, illustrated by images of nature.

Itís not often that you are really moved by a documentary. 

Jaap Mees

The official film website is at www.nickdrakefilm.com

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