(Review originally written at 30 September 2008)

Funny thing with this movie is that it's an highly appreciated one (it even received an Oscar for best foreign language movie) all over the world but in its own native country the Netherlands it wasn't received that well. At least not as an Oscar worthy movie and everyone within the Netherlands at the time also was quite surprised it took home the Oscar.

What I can say about this movie is that it feels like a waste opportunity. The movie feels like one with hugely potential and if it worked out better this could had really been an 'epic' strong feminist family drama but instead the movie jumps all over the place also with its different styles and it's mostly an ineffective one. There is not much interesting within the movie, although you certainly have the feeling that the story itself had plenty of interesting elements to offer but yet it somehow doesn't always translate well to the big screen. Perhaps if the movie would had been an hour longer it would had worked out better and also as a more effective one.

The movie covers basically the entire lifespan of a strong-woman of the Dutch countryside and the future generations of women, her daughter her grand-daughter and right up till her great-grand daughter, while she herself is of course aging. This becomes an interesting aspect of the movie. It begins right after the end of WW II and it ends somewhere in the '90's or so I would guess. So the world around her is constantly changing but yet it also stays the same because she keeps all the people she care for close to her. This means that parts of the movie are set in different time-era's, which gives the movie something unique.

It's obvious that this movie was intended as a strong feminist picture, with all strong female leads in it but with this I mostly feel that the movie isn't as effective as it should had been. It just doesn't feature enough strong or original moments within the movie.

It's still a really well made and good looking movie though. It doesn't look at all like the movie got shot in the Netherlands, the countryside and all within this movie is far too beautiful looking for that. But I always have that with Dutch movies and I guess I just don't know how beautiful my country actually is. Perhaps I just need to stop watching so many movies and get out more...

Female director Marleen Gorris is obviously capable of making a beautiful and professional looking movie. She actually now has a quite successful career in America as a movie director, which is quite an accomplishment not only because she is Dutch but also foremost because she is a female. She actually was the first woman to direct a movie that won an Oscar for best foreign film. Guess she is a strong woman just like Antonia in this movie and that's why she directed this movie with so much obvious passion and devotion.

I wasn't too happy about the acting within this movie though. Willeke van Ammelrooy has always been praised for her role but in all honesty her performance is quite a mixed bag. As the younger Antonia she isn't always too great but as the older Antonia she's much better and more convincing. Can't say that the make-up always looks convincing though. Jan Decleir is normally always a real great actor but his role in this movie isn't anything too memorable but this is mostly due to the far too limited screen time he gets in this movie and he also has far too little lines to speak. He however still does a good job with his sequences and it's actually nice to notice that he took on a Dutch accent and for once dropped his native Belgian one. Still it's weird to hear many other actors within this movie still speak with a Belgian accent, while the movie is obviously set in the Netherlands but this of course has everything to do with the fact that this is a Belgium co-production and a certain part of the cast & crew just HAD to be Belgian.

I wish I could say that it was a brilliant Dutch movie, worthy of its Oscar...


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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