Monday, 6 July 2015

Michiel de Ruyter ~~ an overrated movie of an undervalued period

Earlier this year a movie was brought out depicting several episodes of the life on of the greatest Admiral's of the Dutch Republic: Michiel de Ruyter (see the movie's Wikipedia for further details) who knew how to set fire to English oak.

The marketing of this movie was quite professional, and it was almost impossible not to know about this movie. The movie's cast is a mixture of old-hands in the business (Rutger Hauer and Charles Dancer), the usual soapies (I seem to forget those names) and a very friendly guy from Mierlo, close to Eindhoven (Frank Lammers) who plays de Ruyter. So many known names, and this probably helped the marketing. At the same time, there was the usual bunch of anti-anything-and-we-are-the-moral-compass people, who thought the movie is glorifying nationalism, mercantilism and above all Dutch history, with de Ruyter being the personification of evil. Evil has many faces, since several others depicted in the movie are considered evil as well.

Despite all this cheering and shooting, positive and negative, one can judge a movie only by actually seeing it, I would say.

Though I am probably a bit biased regarding the 17th Century, there are many remarks to be made regarding this movie. Not because there is any glorification, but simply because it is an average movie at best.

1. The script of the movie is as shallow as a dry riverbed in the Sahara, in the summer. Almost only one-liners, supposed to be cheeky, with too much a "doe es ff normaal, jonguh, rare koekwaus die de bent" (impossible to translate) undertone ("it's the 17th century, anything is possible");
2. Charles II, portrayed by Charles Dance and probably one of the best actors in the movie, is depicted as an old, evil, wicked man, who is residing in his dark lair with young mistresses feeling frustrated over the world and the pesky Dutch in particular. In reality, Charles II was born only in 1630, and thus a young man in the prime of his life (hence the mistresses) in the 1660s and 1670s, and known as the "merry monarch"; and over 20 years junior to de Ruyter;
3. The depiction of the capture of Maastricht by the French is simply ridiculous; civilians walking near the walls, in the midst of a siege?
4. People don't grow old ... this is a common mistake in many movies. The first battle in the movie (Ter Heijde) and the death of de Ruyter span more than 20 years.
5. The whole concept of nationality and nationalism/patriotism as displayed in the movie is an anachronism for this period;
6. Mary Stuart had the tender age of fifteen when she married her cousin Willem III van Oranje;
7. After two naval battles one gets to know the two tricks the director had and it becomes boring (men firing cannon, men flying through the air, men looking tough and mean).

Despite all this, the movie is somewhat amusing to watch if you curb your expectations on acting and historical accuracy.

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