De stille Kracht (TV Mini Series 1974) Poster

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Tension in colonial Dutch East Indies
eabakkum5 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The film "De Stille Kracht" (The still craft) is a classic produce, certainly for Dutchmen, but its qualities give it a global appeal. The script is based on the novel of the highly acclaimed Dutch writer Louis Couperus (1863-1923). His books describe the dysfunctional life in the Dutch upper circles, in a pessimistic but not unrealistic style. The film is actually a short TV series, and has a total playing time of more than four hours. The sceneries are authentic and interesting, but always indoor, suggesting that the recordings took place in a Dutch studio. At times this gives the impression of a theatrical performance. The setting is the Dutch colonial life in former Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), in one of the Javanese Departments. The central theme is the life of the resident (local governor) and his family. His (second) wife is much younger than he, Dutch but born in the colony, and nymphomaniac. She has sex with every available young man, even with the son of the resident and the lover of her step-daughter (that's Couperus for you!). The resident is informed by means of anonymous letters, which turn out to originate from his own illegitimate and not-recognized Javanese son. The resident refuses to believe the accusations, and hands over the letters to his wife. The wife is even bold enough to arrange the marriage between her step-daughter (whom she hates) and their mutual lover. It takes a long time, before the resident finally decides to separate from his wife. She immediately agrees, planning to fulfill her child's dream of a stay in Paris. The relational story is in itself interesting enough, but most likely there are underlying layers. One is the relation between the colonial ruler and the native people. The Department is subdivided into districts, and each district is ruled by a native regent, usually a prince. One of these princes appears to be a drunk and a gambler (although pretending to be a Muslim). The resident is forced to depose him. The regent in turn exerts pressure by means of black magic, or at least the pretense of supernatural powers (strange sounds, blood in the bathroom, fracturing glasses). On the one hand the resident is unable to comprehend the events, just like he can not grasp the behavior of his wife. His growing isolation from his native servants undermines his resoluteness. In fact, the whole Dutch community fears a local uprise. On the other hand he refuses to bow to the pressure. However, I guess that the real theme of the novel and the film is the lack of sympathy between the colonial ruler and the native people. Whereas the Dutch community lives in luxury and decadence, the native people endure and wait for their chance of liberation. This feeling of tension must have been almost unbearable to the Dutch inhabitants, and may rightly be called a still craft. Couperus evidently undermines the devout idea of East Indies as a Dutch province. Still, I would have preferred a more clear message. If you like films about rebellion, see my other reviews.
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a masterpiece
wvisser-leusden16 March 2009
"De stille kracht" (= Dutch for "the hidden force") is a book from 1900. Written by Louis Couperus (1863 - 1923), a Dutch writer who acquired himself an international reputation.

Part of Couperus' work is situated in the former Dutch East Indes, nowadays' Indonesia. That also goes for "De stille kracht". Its story deals with a problem arising from Dutch colonial government. Apart from having a clever plot, Couperus' book also provides a clear insight in the Dutch colonial society of around 1900.

In 1974 Dutch TV-director Walter van der Kamp (who died recently) transferred this book's contents into a TV-series. It was an instant hit in the Netherlands, not in the least by Van der Kamp's magnificent, right & authentic touch of the Dutch colonial society of those days. Back in 1974 many Dutch people still had strong emotional ties their former East Indes.

In 2009 this colony has become much more a thing of the past than it was in 1974. What remains, however, is the excellence of Van der Kamp's series. Still widely regarded as among the very best (Dutch) TV ever produced.
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Silent Power in the East Indies
richard-III20 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
When I was ten years old, the television series DE STILLE KRACHT (The Silent Power) was broadcasted. Though I was not fond of television drama, it was announced that this one was about Indonesia when it was still in the hands of the Dutch, at the beginning of the 20th century. Based on a classic book by Louis Couperus - a man who has lived and worked in the Dutch Indies himself - it tells the story of Resident (something like a governor) Van Oudijck's family and their contact with the Indonesian population. Van Oudijck's son has an almost incestuous relation with his young stepmother, while the resident himself is pulled into political chaos more and more. Indonesian freedom warriors, especially in Atjeh, again and again attack their colonialist 'masters'. On a more personal level, the resident's young wife is attacked by mysterious forces, probably because of her relationship with her stepson, and the fact that she is resident Van Oudijck's wife. Between rituals at the Resident's meetings with a local Regent (head), and ghost-summoning OuiJa board games, the whole of the Dutch Indies and the whole of the story seems to ooze supernaturalism. Almost everyone, maybe even everyone, there believes in the Silent Power, the supernatural powers of black and white magic. The actors, mostly the best of Dutch stage in the mid seventies, do an excellent job. The director seems to have had a very clear mind and mood, and the script is competent. Art direction is very good, remembering that for television there was not much money to spend on that.
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