Stuck on a boat with Jan Wandelaar for 12 times 48 minutes
When Apocalypse Now Redux came out in 2001 I remember thinking that the only way to make this film experience even longer and more all encompassing would be to bring out a 'real-time' version of the trip. This would take at least a couple of weeks to watch. I'm sure Francis Ford Coppola shot enough footage back in the jungle to make such a cut feasible. Of course at that time I hadn't seen the 1970s series Holland's Glorie yet. At 12 fifty minute episodes that are spend mostly at sea, this series makes you feel that you are actually there, stuck on a boat with the same crew for months on end. This is where the similarities between the two projects stop, even though Hollands Glorie was shot in 1976 and first broadcast on Dutch television in '77, right about the time Coppola was shooting in the jungle.
Based on the 1940 book by Jan de Hartog, 'Hollands Glorie' is the story of one man's love for - and fight against the sea. We follow protagonist Jan Wandelaar (Hugo Metsers) between the years of 1906 and 1920 as he makes a name for himself as a sailor, specifically on powerful tugboats. Along the way Wandelaar, the ultimate underdog, faces every kind of disaster possible, losing several ships, his house and savings, two wives and his own freedom. Yet nothing seems to hurt him as much as being deprived of a life on the high sea. For instance, although the man is sorry to miss the birth of his children, he spends so little time with them that none of them ever appear on screen (or if they do I just managed to miss them).
What we do get to see is an accurate (I would think) look at life aboard a tugboat in the early years of the last century. Sure, there are some tedious patches, but that only adds to the overall feeling of authenticity. As Jan Wandelaar makes his way from sailer to first mate and eventually captain, he always makes sure to keep roughly the same reliable crew together. Some don't make it all the way: one chokes on a desert, another is eaten by sharks, while a third crew member succumbs to tropic fever. But all of them take up the fight against the powerful shipping magnate Kwel and his son, who's unfair treatment towards their employees gets Jan into trouble time and again. He eventually decides to buy his own ship, De Furie, and start a small rival company of his own, but of course that isn't the end of his troubles by a long shot.
There are a lot of characters to keep track off over the course of the series. Some of these we get to know quite well while others only make fleeting appearances. None of them makes such an unforgettable entrance as Josine van Dalsum as Riekie Kiers, who is saved from drowning by Jan Wandelaar, who then decides the only way to keep her from freezing to death is by pressing his naked body against hers for the duration of a night. When doing a Google search for Hollands Glorie, you can still find people talking about this scene.
Now everybody knows the difficulty of filming on water, and seeing as about half of this series takes place on actual sea fairing vessels, director Walter van der Kamp must have had his hands full. Interestingly enough, actor Rudi Falkenhagen is credited as first assistant director for the first and only time in his career. To ease their burden, all the interiors were filmed in a TV studio. As always with these seventies drama series, part of the joy comes from recognizing all the famous faces, some well established and near the end of their careers at this point, others just up and coming. The Seventies were the heyday of novel inspired Television dramas for Dutch television, whereas the Eighties saw the trend move into prime-time soap territory, and by the time the Nineties began, the first daily soap took the country by storm. Things were never the same again. That is why Hollands Glorie is still remembered as one of the last great Television events made by the Dutch master in that field, Van der Kamp.
7 out of 10
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