Twelve years ago, fisherwoman Kniertje lost her husband and two of her sons on sea. Now she makes a living by doing some cleaning at shipowner Bos, but it's far from enough. Driven by poverty and honor she urges her last two sons to take a job on one of the fishing boats of Bos, the Op hoop van zegen. Barend is a beachcomber and he hates the sea, Geert has a very good job at the navy, but loses it when he stands up against of his superiors. He absolutely despises Bos, but his pride makes him fulfill his obligations. Barend tries to escape, but the police and his own mother force him to go, after all she already accepted a fee in advance from Bos. Together the boys leave on the 'Hoop', a heavily insured ship that recently underwent repairs, but were they sufficient? Some people in town have serious doubts. Written by
Arnoud Tiele (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Herman Heijerman's 1900 play has been adapted to film four times up till now, three times between the first and second world war and once in the mid eighties. The third version was the first with sound and is also the first too survive intact. Of the two silent versions, only bits and pieces remain. This includes, interestingly enough, an alternate (happy) end to the 1918 version meant for international markets. Alex Benno, who directed the 1934 version, worked as a gopher on the 1918 version and also appeared as an extra. It was his dream to make a sound version of the film and to use the same lead actress, Esther de Boer van Rijk, who had become synonymous with the part of Kniertje on stage. Willem van der Veer, who played youngest son Barendje in the 1918 version, was cast as the unscrupulous Reder Bos this time around.
Of course the story remains the same. Fishersman's wife Kniertje, who has already lost her husband and two eldest sons to the sea, nevertheless persuades her two youngest boys to set sail on the 'Op Hoop Van Zegen'. Neither of the boys wants to go, especially young Barend who is afraid of water. The elder one, Geert, is an ex-con who joined the marines but ended up in jail for defending his girlfriends honor. Unknown to them, the ship in question is falling apart at the seams and rotting to boot, so the greedy owner Bos has gotten it heavily insured.
Though the theatrical roots are clearly evident during the indoor scenes, these are complimented by some beautiful location photography and, especially for the time, quite exiting special effect shots of the ship during a storm. Surprisingly, there is actually more singing in this version than in the 1984 version, in which teen idol Danny de Munk sang a rather ill placed pop song in the middle of the movie. People familiar with that version will be surprised to see a substantially older version of Barendje in the 1934 'Hoop', which is just as well considering Kniertje is pushing 81 in this particular version. Nonetheless, Esther de Boer van Rijk carries the picture as Kniertje and gives a moving performance. It's a good thing she got the chance to be seen and heard on film so her iconic portrayal has been preserved (and luckily, it has).
Most of the trivia in this comment I got from the informative liner notes provided by Het Filmmuseum on their recent DVD release. Of course it would have been even better had they included what's left of the two earlier versions as bonus material, but this was not to be. Maybe one day we'll see one of those Blade Runner style boxed sets featuring all remaining footage of each version shaped as the good ship 'Op Hoop Van Zegen' itself. Well, a fisherman can dream...
8 out of 10
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