The Dutch are world famous for their documentaries and animation films, and over the years some of their feature films have had an international impact. Here are our ten favourites.
Een Carmen van het noorden (1919)
Director: Maurits Binger
Why would anyone spend time watching a silent black and white film? Well, this is where the Dutch film industry began. Director Maurits Binger was a pioneer of Dutch film, setting up his own production company Filmfabriek Hollandia. The star of the film is Annie Bos, the Netherlands’ first film diva. She is wonderfully natural and seductive as the girl who seduces a soldier into deserting and then throws him over for an opera singer. You’ll have to search for it but it will be worth the effort. Try the Eye Film Institute in Amsterdam.
Komedie om geld (1936)
Director: Max Ophüls
One of the best films of the 1930s and one which speaks to our own financial crisis. A bank teller loses a huge sum of money and is sacked and accused of theft. He is promptly employed by a project developer who thinks he is rich and begins developing social housing. However, he starts acting like a capitalist and his daughter must show him the error of his ways. The great German-born director Max Ophüls, who had fled the Nazi regime, was brought to the Netherlands from France to make the film, which is very modern in its framing, lighting and storytelling.
Directed by Bert Haanstra
One of the nicest Dutch films is this tale of the two brass bands in one village who both want to compete in a brass band competition. How they go about sabotaging each others rehearsals and journey to the competition venue is the stuff of high comedy. Jan Mul composed two distinctive tunes for the bands to play, which join together seamlessly in the final scene. The film was shot in Giethoorn, a picturesque village in Overijssel.
Director: Bert Haanstra
The Dutch are good at documentaries and Bert Haanstra was one of the foremost in the field. This is his most popular film. He and cameraman Anton van Munster spent eighteen months secretly recording everyday life – on beaches, in parks and on the streets. Haanstra then edited the film into a series of humorous and quirky scenes. Best-known is the sequence where people tie themselves into knots getting changed on the beach.
Turks fruit (1973)
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Paul Verhoeven introduced Rutger Hauer and Monique van de Ven to the big screen in this film version of the Jan Wolkers’ novel about the passionate and very physical relationship between a young man and a dying girl. Sparks fly as the two strip off for some rough sex while the love between them grows. The film was released to mixed reviews and demonstrations by feminist groups, but is now the Netherlands’ favourite film.
Soldaat van Oranje (1977)
Director Paul Verhoeven
There must be hundreds of Dutch films about the war, but this is the most famous – and at the time the most expensive. Loosely based on a true story, it’s about a group of students in Leiden and their adventures during the war. Rutger Hauer and Jeroen Krabbé save the Netherlands from the nazis, Hauer and Derek de Lint perform one of the sexiest tangos ever seen and the theme tune by Rogier van Otterloo has become almost a second national anthem.
Pas de deux (1988)
Director: Gerrit van Dijk
Gerrit van Dijk, who died in 2012, was the great magician of Dutch animation. Here he used rotoscope – tracing over footage, frame by frame – to create a seamless dance in which the couple change constantly, taking in Popeye, Betty Boop, TinTin, Charlie Chaplin, Shirley Temple and others along the way. The film won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 1989.
Director: Marleen Gorris
Marleen Gorris also wrote the screenplay for this feminist take on four generations of women in a Dutch village. Willeke van Ammelrooy leads the dynasty in the title role with splendid support from a group of strong Dutch actresses. The men don’t get much of a look in. The film won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1996.
Director: Mike van Diem
This dramatic tale of the hatred between a father and son, based on a novel by F Bordewijk, won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1998. It boasts some of the Netherlands’ best actors, including Fedja van Huêt as the son. Father is played by the brilliant Flemish actor Jan Decleir. The scenes between the two are tense and literally breathtaking.
Vader en dochter (2000)
Director: Michael Dudok de Wit
One of the saddest Dutch films is this short animated story in which a small girl waves farewell to her father as he rows away. Over the years, she returns to the spot to see if her father has returned. Director Michael Dudok de Wit shows her getting older as the seasons change. The film won the Oscar for Best Animation in 2001. You’ll need a big box of tissues!