Successful and well remembered TV adaption of Jan Mens' trilogy of novels detailing the life of Marleen Spaargaren (singer Willeke Alberti in her acting debut). Surrounded by the best of Dutch (theater) talent available at the time, Willeke effortlessly holds her own in the acting department, and of course performs all the songs Marleen 'makes up in her own mind' by way of some sort of inner-monologue. Set in Amsterdam, the story begins at the start of the 20th Century and ends during World War Two. Over the course of 26 episode, we see Willeke play Marleen from about the ages 15 to 45, and although apart from a Grey wig here and there, the actors change very little, this hardly matters as the characters are extremely well drawn.
Young Marleen takes a job as a maid after the birth of her baby brother Eppo, who is soon diagnosed as being 'a bit slow'. The first couple of episodes revolve around her working for several different households and showing a remarkable strong will and cleverness (without the benefit of an education). Although some of these early installments may seem episodic, nearly every supporting character returns to play a significant part later on in the story, usually in an unexpected way. Between the episodes there is often a jump in time (very 'I Clavdivs'). However this gets progressively shorter once Marleen meets and settles down with the love of her life, antique repairman (which was Jan Mens' profession before he took up writing) Jan Engelmoer (John Leddy).
Marleen and Jan open a marginally successful antique and curiosity shop, and only pray for one more thing in life: a child. Meanwhile Eppo (for the most part played by Hans Hoekman) is becoming a burden to his depressed father (Jacques Commandeur) and long suffering mother (Emmy Lopez-Dias). That is until Engelmoer discovers the boy has an artistic streak. Eventually, Eppo is taken under the wing of the loudmouth, frivolous sculptor Jos Boswinkel (Coen Flink). Marleen also turns to Boswinkel when she learns her husband is infertile. Not out of love, but to be able to raise a child with Jan Engelmoer. And so it is not until the series is more than halfway through that we understand exactly what the Little White Lie (De Kleine Waarheid) means.
This drama was filmed and performed like a stage play: very long scenes of two or three people talking to each other make up each hour long episode (with only the occasional voice-over song as an interlude). Director Willy van Hemert was an expert as this kind of thing and knew exactly when to zoom in on a detail or gesture. Because the takes were so long, they obviously tried to get it right the first try. This means there are quite a few slips of the tongue left in the production, which to me makes the acting even more real, like they are actually making up the words at the time. Often you can see the focus puller reacting a tad to slow when Van Hemert decides to put in one of those famous zooms, and even this helps add to the realism of it all. Of course people accustomed to MTV editing probably will have great trouble sitting through an entire episode (it took me a while to settle into it myself), for this production was truly made in another century.
Once you except the old fashioned pace, however, you soon realize why this series was so popular at the time. By the time WWII starts, you really feel you know Marleen and her extended family and friends (with Eppo especially going through an impressive story arc). You never know who's familiar face might pop up next (including some actors I previously only knew from doing voice work). Finally Tamar Baruch, the Little White Truth herself, must be singled out for being probably the most natural child actress Holland ever produced. As Marleen's daughter Suzan, she lights up every scene she's in and, like TV mom Willeke does not flinch in the company of some of Holland's best thespians.
9 out of 10
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