An artist, a school girl, a maid, a train conductor and a business executive are drawn into a great wheel of misfortune as all their lives are touched by the existence of one very particular summer dress.
Alex van Warmerdam
When the young republic of The Netherlands is attacked by England, France and Germany and the country itself is on the brink of civil war, only one man can lead the country's strongest weapon, the Dutch fleet: Michiel de Ruyter.
Johanna 'Hannie' Schaft tells, in flash-backs, how she decides during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, to interrupt law studies to 'do something for real'. She joins the Dutch resistance, which uses her in missions to 'eliminate' collaborators. Even her parents may not know. Tough colleague Hugo initially looks down upon her girlish hesitations, but they fall in love. A failed attempt to shoot SD-informant de Ruyter puts the Germans on their trace.Written by
Renée Soutendijk plays her first leading role as a young law student who joins the Dutch resistance in WWII and trains to be a liquidator. Having already garnered attention the year before in Paul Verhoeven's controversial "Spetters", Soutendijk decided to leave the sitcom Zeg 'ns Aaa (wich had not yet found a big audience) to concentrate on a career in film rather than television. The movie was shot to resemble black and white pictures from the period and looks suitably bleak and gray, making the lead characters's red hair stand out even more. Eventually circumstances force her to dye it (it made her the most recognizable resistance fighter) and at that point both the story and the film seem to lose all color. Not that there was anything to laugh about in the first place.
Debutant director and co-writer Ben Verbong decided to omit any references to Jannetje Johanna Schaft (the girl with the red hair) being a communist, even though that was one of the main reasons for her to join the resistance. There is hardly any dialog anyway, as none of the group members want too much emotional attachments. Even when she get romantically involved with fellow resistance fighter Hugo, they never seem especially passionate. The sparseness of the spoken word makes this picture seem even more like a psychological study of the lengths people will go to in desperate times as we watch the title character struggle with becoming a hit woman on a bicycle.
Although the film is certainly well made and Soutendijk proves to be a capable lead, there is absolutely nothing uplifting in the entire picture. The combination of long silent scenes and colorless photography makes for quite a depressive sitting. The period is recreated in great detail, with only Loes Luca's different hairstyles seeming to be a little out of place at times. Verbong and Soutendijk teamed up again in 1994 for the "Sliver" like thriller 'De Flat'. This marked Renée's return to Dutch films after a stint in Hollywood and Verbong's goodbye from his homeland, as he decided to move to Germany after wards.
7 out of 10
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