Ruben van Leer

The Boxer

Ruben van Leer
The Boxer

The Boxer is a short film about the courageousness of self-expression personified by Frank, both opera tenor and boxer.

Amsterdam-based artist and director Ruben Van Leer’s latest film is a high-energy portrait of tenor and boxer Frank Engel, made in collaboration with the Dutch National Opera

battle with the self as revolution

The Boxer is part of the Dutch National Opera’s ‘You don’t know opera’ campaign, designed to draw in a new audience. Shot as a short film, director Ruben Van Leer takes tenor Frank Engel as his lead character based on his background also as a boxer. What is real and what’s not? Peter Grimes, music from one of the 20th Century’s most famous operas, is about an individual under attack from the collective. He needs to stand up for himself, as does Frank, who is battling himself. To overcome his fear and perform in the opera, tenor Frank Engel slides into his other self, the one where he is also a boxer. As he enters the stage and knocks himself out, he is finally able to star as the embattled protagonist in Peter Grimes. Featuring a poem written and voiced by the legendary Johnny BANG Reilly.

Boxing ring and theatre stage fade into one another in this dramatised impression revolving around the real-life main character, featuring a propelling text by street poet Johnny Bang Reilly.
Netherlands Film Festival
The first in a series of films for ‘You Don’t Know Opera’ portrays a truly unexpected combination that flips pre-conceived notions of an opera star, and in turn opera itself, on its head.
The Drum


writer & director: Ruben Van Leer

cinematography: Paul Ozgur


filmmaker & media-artist