30 November 2005 | manuel-pestalozzi
A Day Trip into Anarchy
The movie makes the best out of a fairly unique story that is probably based on true historical facts. It is about a one day expedition to Amsterdam in May 1940, shortly before the arrival of the invading German troops. In a race against time exiled Dutch jewelers try to get all the industrial diamonds out of the country and bring them to Britain before the Germans can take them. It is a quick in and out operation organised by the British government that has to be accomplished in one day - and no easy task as the jewelers have to be convinced by sheer argument it is the right and sensible thing to do (hard to decide in the Netherlands in May 1940, I am certain).
In a strange way this movie is surrealistic and realistic at the same time. There is a lot of good location shooting, the sun drenched streets of Amsterdam are virtually deserted, the atmosphere is ghostly. At times there is gunfire in the distance. There are some disoriented Dutch soldiers hanging around, or shall I say loitering? The effect is strangely threatening. At one time two groups of soldiers start shooting at each other. In another scene, one of the day trippers steps into a pub in a totally empty square. And there they are, the Dutch! Sitting peacefully behind their pints and discussing the latest news from the front. The transition really took me completely by surprise, it was incongruous but strangely effective and somehow totally believable.
There are harrowing scenes. When the day trippers disembark, the harbour is in chaos and full of refugees a strong contrast to the mentioned deserted streets in the town center. When they finally succeed in organising a meeting with all of Amsterdam's important jewelers, their Jewish colleagues express the opinion that for them it might be wiser not to make the Germans angry by giving away the jewels. They can be convinced to agree to the evacuation of the stones that are invaluable to the armament industry, although it is made perfectly clear that the day trippers can take no refugees with them. All these issues are treated in a rational and unemotional way which actually strengthens the impact of the tragic situation.
In addition the movie also has some action scenes, a car chase and, as the culmination of the absurd general situation, the heist of a jewel depository by partisans who help the day trippers, with an ensuing fierce shootout with a detachment of Dutch troops. The acting is good, Peter Finch (Network) is cool as usual and gives a convincing performance as the son of an eminent Amsterdam jeweler and leader of the expedition. Eva Bartok is stylishly beautiful and enigmatic as a Dutch woman with uncertain alignments who joins the day trippers after they saved her from a suicide attempt (driving her car over the pier in the harbor, a car, incidentally, that comes in mighty handy). So, a hell of a lot goes on in Operation Amsterdam.