Rotterdam Films

Rijneke & van Leeuwaarden

Het Dak Van De Walvis

Raul Ruiz


Language plays an important part in this film, but a language that is due to disappear. Jean, anthropologist, meets with two Indians who’s language he wants to study. At first, the Indians gave a very childish impression on him, they seem to speak a language consisting of only sixty words. One day, Jean forgets to switch of his tape recorder and it is left behind with the Indians. Afterwards, when he listens to the tape, the Indians turn out to speak another language in his absence, a language that was only known by them. They were so suspicious towards the outside word, they want to hide their secret language from it.

Originally, director Ruiz wanted to make a documentary about these Indians, in which he wanted to picture the language and the murder on their people. Meanwhile, the Indians passed away. The film has become kind of a fable, but since the film is about the extinction of Indian people and their language, it was called Top Of The Whale. It is a metaphor from the ‘Edda’, which means ‘sea’.

Ruiz: ‘It has become kind of an impressionistic film about the experiences of different characters who get in contact with the two Indians. My earlier fils dealt with borderline cases as well, but at the moment I reflect more upon problems to do with cinematic machinery. What is that mirror in which the image remains captured, what is that mirror that conjures up new confrontations again and again? What are these phantoms, this stereotypes that are produced by film? In my earlier films I have tried to avoid these stereotypes. In this film, however, I have chosen for a linear structure. After two minutes the plot has become entirely clear. Then I show various situations, by using cinematic techniques, us applied by French avant-garde directors in the 1920s and 1930s. That is to say, I used slow-motion, different lenses and similar techniques. Notwithstanding the narrative structure, one can say that it deals with a dream, a nightmare. The film deals with the imaginary, a kind of fear. Maybe not a collective fear, but my personal fear, as someone born in a Latin-American country. This is a personal film, because it has to do with my memories’.

The film was made without a script.


A feature by Raul Ruiz.

16mm, 90 min, colour

Director: Raul Ruiz

Production: Kees Kasander/Monica Tegelaar

Camera: Henri Alekan

Sound: Mildred van Leeuwaarden

Assistant: Dirk Rijneke

Cast: Willeke van Ammelrooy, Herbert Curiël