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No one to root for

7/10
Author: Chip_douglas from Rijswijk, ZH, Netherlands
19 September 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After successfully adapting several novels into television mini-series including 'Bartje' and 'Dagboek Van Een Herdershond', Willy van Hemert sat down to write his own 12 part drama/soap for KRO television which he of course directed as well in 1983: "De Weg". This title refers not only to the highway that is being built by main character Frans van Steenderen is building as head of a construction company, but also to 'finding the way' in life for Frans' stubborn and almost unreachable 18 year old son Arie.

The story opens in 1957 when Arie is 8 years old and his mother Jany (Anne-wil Blankers) decides to leave her husband (a bewigged André van den Heuvel) and go to Australia with her lover. Then we skip to 1967: father Frans has had enough of Arie (now played by Sjoerd Pleijsier) loitering around instead of studying and sends him to a boarding school. The rest of the story takes place entirely in the late sixties and my pet peeve with this series is that the filmmakers have gone to little or no trouble in recreating the look, fashion or style of the period.

Each scene, every hairstyle and all the clothes looks like they belong to the eighties (which of course they did). They even go on location to airport Schiphol and a supermarket and apart from a character mentioning how 'new' it all looks. There is absolutely no attempt to dress the set accordingly. The same thing goes for a visit to a TV studio and all of the tractors and other construction equipment. They should have set the series in the eighties instead. Especially since they were obviously trying to cash in on the success of the TROS television series 'De Fabriek', seeing as they even hired Ruud Bos to compose another iconic theme.

At first Arie has trouble fitting in at boarding school, but he soon makes a few friends and even gains a girlfriend, Saskia Ten Batenburg as Cootje (also the name of Willy's wife at the time). During a trip to Switzerland in the summer holiday father and son Van Steenderen finally begin to bond, but everything falls to pieces on their arrival when Jany returns from Australia with the intention of getting back her family. And this is the kind of woman who always gets what she wants. The problem I had while watching the series is that none of these three family members is very sympathetic. Frans, Arie and Jany are three of the most egoistical, self obsessed and scheming characters ever to grace the Dutch TV screen. Frans is perhaps the least offending, but he remains very stern and uncaring to everybody around him except for his one true love, Jany. He even dumps his life in housekeeper Marie (Kitty Janssen), with whom he had been having an affair, as soon Jany returns.

The other two are even worse. Jany is only interested in her own well being and able to wind everyone around her fingers with just a few words. The only exception to that rule being her son, who is sullen, spiteful, hides his feelings and gets angry at everybody with just the slightest provocation. He fails to hold on to a girl despite several opportunities and only really seems to love his horse 'Bonanza'. One thing that I did find interesting and original is that each episode begins with a recap of the previous ones and a monologue by one of the characters (a different one each time) performed straight into the camera. Quite Shakespearian, really. During Arie's soliloquy (in episode 6) he even states that the viewers at home would probably not like him. Very insightful that was, but Hamlet it does not make him.

Some of these 'opening monologues' are naturally quite insightful into the characters way of thinking and as a writer, Van Hemert manages to give each of the cast (also including Marie and Grandmother) their own personal quirks and habits. Unfortunately there is also a lot of scenes in which people just repeat the same thing been happening to them several times (and which we have already seen) to different persons. Still, Van Hemert does touch upon a lot of sensitive issues such as divorce, adultery, religion and even homosexual feelings at a boys school which must have been quite groundbreaking at the time, especially as it was being shown by the Catholic broadcaster KRO.

The show does suffer a bit from that old school trend of casting people in their late twenties as teenagers (Sjoerd Pleijsier was 29 playing 18 and his hair was already thinning). I also don't understand why bald André van den Heuvel wore a wig for the entire time playing the part of the father. He would have been better off removing it in the middle of episode 1 as the story moved from '57 to '67. Oh, and one last thing about the aforementioned scene set in the supermarket (in episode 7). This scene required little dialog and looks to have been shot with just two actresses and one cameraman. Most of the 'extras' can be seen looking into the camera and one lady is visibly startled as she almost bumps into it. Seems to me like they just went out and filmed inside a supermarket without telling any of the customers they were going to end up on TV. Thank goodness the rest of the filming was not handled as clumsily, but was shot in a variety of studio sets and real locations.

7 out of 10

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