Robert van Gulik (1910-1967) is perhaps one of the world’s most read authors from the Netherlands. This diplomat, Sinologist and scholar is mainly known for his detective novels starring Judge Dee.
The filmmaker Rob Rombout follows in his footsteps to discover the author’s legacy in his diaries, people he inspired and witnesses to his life. His books are in many respects projections of his own life. In one of his rare interviews, van Gulik let slip the remark: “ … Judge Dee, that’s me…” It can be difficult to draw the line between fact and fiction with a character like Robert van Gulik. In the documentary, reality and fantasy, past and present will flow into each other, at times imperceptibly. The film is a quest where the filmmaker takes us on a journey, by way of side roads, in the author’s tracks. At times by plane, by ship or literally on tracks, by train just as the writer himself often travelled. Fragments of his diaries, archive footage, stylized scenes with witnesses and the filmmaker’s own voice blend into a fascinating cinematic journey.