Saturday, November 29, 2014


The Netherlands is a small country, but they do have a long history of artistic achievements.  Not that many examples of films have broken thorough barriers to my accessibility.  European history can be very complicated and confusing.  The Netherlands was a major world power at one time and have left a global footprint.  Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have had many border changes amongst them.  The Dutch have their own language, but share a dialect, Flemish with other parts of Europe.

At the beginning I was just looking for interesting movies.  A problem is language as the Netherlands and Belgium overlap a bit with each country trying to take advantage of commonalities,  The politics is difficult for me and since I rely on subtitles some subtleties are undoubtedly missed.  There are many dialects between the Netherlands, Belgium and France but television is having a standardizing effect.

First Dutch movie that reached my attention was "Bride Flight", mainly because of my interest in New Zealand.  Soap opera type of plot well done. Beautiful scenery.  Directed by Ben Sombogaart and written by Marieke van der Pol who had teamed up together for an earlier classic "Twin Sisters."

"Black Book"  set in World War II is carried by Carrice van Houten who plays a Jew caught up in the Nazi occupation.  She might be better known through "Game of Thrones" and she is certainly impressive in "Black Book"  Directed by Paul Verhoeve.  It is  pretty graphic and powerful.

"Character" came out in 1997 and won the Oscar for best foreign film.  Prior to that other Dutch movie, "Antonia's Line" (1995) and "The Assault" (1986) had won best foreign film honours.

For "The Heineken Kidnapping" Rutger Hauer, an international star came back home to play a very powerful man who undergoes a strange transformation after his kidnapping  Story told from kidnappers viewpoint.  One of the motivating factors was the fact the head kidnapper's father had been fired from Heineken due to alcoholism.  He claimed he had been coerced into drinking on his sales calls and this pricked the conscience of Heineken after he resolved his post kidnapping feelings.

"Twin Sisters" based on popular novel was made into a film in 2002.  It used three pairs of actresses as the sisters at different ages.  All six were excellent.  I especially liked the two who played the women in their twenties, Thekla Reuten and Nadja Uhl.  The two twin sisters are separated from each other, one in Germany and one in the Netherlands.  The Dutch one loves a Jew and the German one marries a SS officer (not as bad as it sounds) and with the tensions of World War II the two sisters when finally finding each other come to be mutually hostile.  An outsider can appreciate neither had much choice, but each was decent in their own way.  Very well done and enjoyable.

"Winter in Wartime" also based on a best selling novel.  Told from the perspective of a 14 year old boy in occupied Netherlands.  Who can you trust?  Open defiance is not effective.  Exciting horse chase which ends in tragedy for the horse.

One impressive Belgian actor now taking English, Flemish and French roles is Mattias Schoenaerts.   The financing of movies often involved Belgian and Dutch investors as well as talent.  Mattias caught my attention in "Bullhead" which is a brutal movie that was nominated for an Oscar and the French language "Rust and Bone."  He is also making a mark on English speaking films.

Like to include one comedy when reviewing a nation's film output.  "Black Out" supposedly copies some Hollywood movies with its humour coming from grossing out, but also satire--racist, homophobic, sexist plus social media.  The lead man, Raymond Thiry was a very good choice (remembered from "Winter in Wartime").  Compared to Quentin Tarentino, but tamer (and I think more subtle).

"North Sea Texas" was listed as a Dutch language movie, but I learned it is a Belgian production.  It is a gay themed movie which seems a more relevant genre than it used to be.  If you like gay movies it is good without being very explicit.

I find a lot of good movies come from small countries.  They do not have the scale of population and money that enables a lot of movies so there is a careful selection process.  Often actors and technicians have to go elsewhere to make a living, but are able to return home as experienced participants.  Many of us in the English speaking world are ignorant of history and culture of the rest of the world.  There is a richness that is well worth seeking and movies are one aspect.


  1. Cate Blanchett is filming/producing The Dinner, by Dutch writer Herman Koch. The English book exists (I have it.) The NYT hated it.

  2. I enjoyed "The Dinner"{ and am now enjoying "Summer House with Swimming Pool" Koch has interesting insights into humans. I looked for The Dinner DVD at our local library, but with no success. I didn't know about the Hollywood version, but will look forward to it.