Editor’s note: This article is presented in partnership with the Holland Marketing Alliance and their award-winning “Holland. The Original Cool” travel series. You can watch their new short film, “The Tale of Kat & Dog: A Holland Cool Movie,” below.
Try as some filmmakers might, it’s impossible for a single movie to represent an entire country. With all the different perspectives and geographical locations that a nation has to offer, it’s difficult to pinpoint all of those diverse experiences in a neat package.
Luckily, the Netherlands has decades of history and cinematic depictions to dive into, from Dutch filmmakers and those telling their stories far from home. The short film that got us thinking about this? “The Tale of Kat & Dog: A Holland Cool Movie,” a 17-minute tour across Amsterdam with an adorable canine as a guide:
Now that you’ve seen a bit of the country through the eyes of a dog and young couple in love, come with us on a short jaunt through Holland on film.
Quick Studio Trips – “Ocean’s Twelve” and “Diamonds are Forever”
Hollywood has long incorporated Amsterdam in its Rolodex of exotic European locales. International intrigue, Holland-style has come in many forms, but we have a few favorites. the above ill-fated meeting with Robbie Coltrane’s Matsui in (the criminally underrated) “Ocean’s Twelve” doesn’t take up much screen time, but the “….’Kashmir?'” aftermath shows that even an alleyway is enough for the city to add some much-needed flavor to a film.
And don’t forget an early sequence from the James Bond movie “Diamonds are Forever” set on (and in?) the city’s canals. Yes, it’s a tourist-eye view of the city, but it’s a small window into the Amsterdam of nearly a half century ago. Plus, now you know the history of the Skinny Bridge!
The Bloemendaal of “Borgman”
Alex van Warmerdam’s eerie infiltration tale not only benefits from stretching its home invasion story over the length of an entire film, but from its deceptively idyllic setting. Filmed in Bloemendaal, one of the country’s most affluent regions, the immediate atmosphere adds an extra layer to the general uneasiness of this pseudonymed stranger’s (Jan Bijvoet) sinister ingratiation into a wealthy family. Though his plot occasionally takes him into town for supplies (you’ll never look at cement the same way again), most of the film is set amidst the family’s verdant estate. Away from the bustle of the city, life is calm. Just don’t look too closely beneath the surface of the pond.
A View From the Road in “Trafic”
For the final appearance of Tati’s Monsieur Hulot character and his penultimate effort as a director, French master Jacques Tati envisioned “Trafic,” a roadtrip film that culminates in Amsterdam. It’s a view of the city’s surroundings, from bumper-to-bumper action on the highway. The film’s closing sequence is a trademark bit of playful absurdism, showing a sea of pastel-colored cars woven together like an eight-square slider puzzle (or the cubicles from “Playtime”). It may not a precisely indicative portrait of the city’s daily street activity, but it’s an example of how much Amsterdam can be a prism through which filmmakers can bring their style to the screen.
A Visitor’s Journey Beyond the Airport – “Alice in the Cities”
Take it from nine-year-old Alice: “Amsterdam is much more beautiful than New York!” As a German journalist waits with her for the girl’s mother on their way back home, they venture out from the city’s airport to take in the city’s offerings. There’s a return trip to the canals, but their photographic pursuits take them out to see rural windmills and walk pasture-lined highways. For a story that spans continents and languages, this diversion through the Netherlands not only strengthens the bond between the characters, it shows its most famous city as a global city worth savoring.
Netherlands in Wartime – “Black Book”
Film is one of the most communal ways for a nation to grapple with its history in global conflict. Most notable among Dutch filmmakers’ efforts might be Paul Verhoeven’s 2006 WWII tale “Black Book,” which follows Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten) a young Jewish woman and her story of survival under Nazi occupation. As the country was being transformed from the outside, Rachel assumes an alternate identity to aid resistance efforts from within. The story spans the nation as it existed in 1944, filming both on countryside farmland and in recognizable locales within The Hague itself.
Holland’s Second Screen – “App”
It’s already been three years since the world got to experience “App,” a Dutch horror film with scares played out on with the help of a mobile app. (Our Eric Kohn described the film in his review as “a surprisingly decent stab at something new.”) Not only did director Bobby Boermans and writer Robert Arthur Jansen get ahead of the curve of Siri-inspired terror, the technology-infused story brings the action out from a living room and into Holland city life. The horror doesn’t come from confining a main character in a small space, but from bringing that same digital claustrophobia to everyday public life. The integrated phone app may be designed for one person to use at a time, but the real-life implications of an interconnected world mean that this film might age better than we might have anticipated.