26 December 2002 | khatcher-2
Despite heavy attack of very Christmassy influenza
I opted for this Netherlands TV production occupying over 5 hours with advertisements, rather than put up with Angelica Huston and Drew Barrymore doing their thing in `Ever After', Terminator 2 as totally unstomacheable, `Showgirls' which is no more than yukky, Schwarzenegger parading his muscles in `Eraser' and Bronson playing the big ape in `Death Wish 3'. Such is the seasonal fare deemed appropriate for Christmas Night on the TV channels in this country. No doubt in other countries something very similar happens, anyway. I suppose this is because the powers-that-be in television programming take it for granted that everyone is having a fine time pulling Christmas crackers and so on, and nobody is watching what is on the idiot box, which is definitely not switched off.
So fighting off a heavy head cold, irritated throat and other nastinesses which generally add up to the Italian-derived little word `flu', I wrapped myself up in blankets accompanied by high doses of Dextrometorfano and monohydrated clorhydrates and other such unmentionables, to watch this TV-mini.
Charlotte Sophie Bentinck (1715-1800) is the central character of Hella Haasse's biographical novel `Mevrouw Bentinck' converted into this interesting and carefully made production. One could gripe that it is overly long: however making any cuts might well force hurriedness into the telling of the story, which would be unbecoming for the majestically stately pace intentionally adopted.
Nanette Kuijpers is excellent in the main part as Charlotte, and is well backed up by Dick van Duin and Tom Jansen. Unfortunately, the aging process on these characters was not very well carried out. Shortly after making this film Dick van Duin died as a result of AIDS.
The photography is magnificent. Indoor filming has that beautiful toned-down effect, such that you often think you are watching black and white; there is none of that blowing up of colours with powerful lighting, which would be so false in the interiors of those manor houses of the 18th Century. Most of the film was shot in the Czech Republic, and other parts in Germany.
Nicola Piovane's music is of course - as ever - just right. So good is he that in the film there are musicians forming quartets and quintets playing pieces which I was not able to recognise and so think were pieces by Piovane himself; nevertheless, the pieces sounded really authentic early and mid 18th Century.
We can forget in the main part any historical inaccuracies: the film primarily sets out to portray the position of women in society of the times, and does so remarkably well. Set marriages are the order of the day: it does not matter who you may feel you want to love. But it is Charlotte's determination to be the upset in society, which, logically, in the end, leads to her own undoing. The slow pacing of the film assures us of no exaggerations, no over-playing. The costuming and interior decorating and furnishings is done with an excellent eye and to taste.
Nottingham University has a web page dedicated to the letters Charlotte wrote (in French) which disclose a deeper understanding of this woman, who was, evidently, way before the times of latter-day Victorian suffragettes.