The title Pentimento refers to a concept from painting, namely the fact that in earlier times, paintings were often painted over. Through a chemical reaction, the old painting can been seen through the new painting.
In Zwartjes’ film, we see how a woman is transported to a facility where she, like other patients, is subjected to a number of degrading experiments. These have sprung from the imagination of a Japanese surgeon who runs the facility. In the past, he was as a soldier involved in torture.
In this film, Zwartjes shows us his world: the war, concentration camps, authority, oppression, tyranny, sex, and torture. Yet the film is not a comment on that world, but, as Gerry Waller described it in a review in the NRC Handelsblad, it is an instinctive expression of Zwartjes’ experiences. So it is going too far to interpret the images in the film literally; the film is constructed in too associative a way for that. Analogous to the concept of pentimento in painting, this film delves into the world that lies behind the images, and is about the dialogue that Zwartjes personally engages in with every spectator in his images.