Admiral online movie review - Visually attractive but lacking historical context
(I wrote this review in Dutch for a college assignment, the assignment was for the course on the correct use of the past in movies)
At the end of January 2015 the big Dutch production Michiel de Ruyter premiered. A production which shows the life of Michiel de Ruyter as a admiral of the Dutch fleet in the seventeenth century. The movie also depicts some major political happenings in that era. Therefore the movie is filled with important characters from that time, like the brother de Witt, William III, Charles II and Cornelis and Maarten Tromp. Names which sound familiar to most of the Dutch audiences. Visually this movie succeeds to translate some of the famous paintings of the era to the white screen, the painting of the brutal lynching of the brothers de Witt is literally shown on screen and has a 'realistic' counterpart as of this movie. The movie only lacks a lot in historical context, which I will illustrate below.
First on the character of Michiel de Ruyter. He is depicted as a total hero: in his politics, his military leadership and as a family man. This is mostly true for the former two. De Ruyter had a relatively neutral political view and was known to be a friend of Johan de Witt. The battles depicted in the movie were de Ruyter is successful are based on real battles, which de Ruyter won. Nautical you can put question marks at some maneuvers, but the outcome is historical correct. The family de Ruyter is depicted as very modern, jumping on the bed of your parents is something I recognize from my own childhood. In the seventeenth century this was likely to be different. The raising of children was different four hundred years ago.
The historical context is mostly absent on two major point: the politics and the chronology. The political context is modern and absent of the movie. The movie starts with a flaming speech about protecting the freedom of the Netherlands. The Netherlands was not a term used in those times for the country. There was a council of war (depicted in the movie) but most politics were done on a regional level. The mentioned conflict between the republicans and the supporters of the House of Orange is stated but the movie never explains why they are in a conflict. Also the portrayal of William the Third as a closeted homosexual is weird. There are no hints that he was a closeted homosexual, same goes for the mannerisms the actor portrays which strongly remind of Louis XIV. The biggest historical let-down for this movie is the absence of dates. Certain events are mentioned in text on the screen, like the 'disaster year'/rampjaar and some of the sea battles. Most of the Dutch audience will know that the aforementioned year is 1672, but for foreign audiences and Dutch audience without historic knowledge are never told which chronology is used. Also the movie suggests that the depicted events are taking place in several months. The movie suggests that this was mostly done to not hire older actors for the children in the movie. It is irritating, there is a four-year gap between the aforementioned rampjaar and the death of de Ruyter, the movie depicts it as closely together, which is not true.
Visually this movie is very watchable and could serve as a start-up to a understanding of Dutch national history. By omitting much of the context (which could easily be added) this latter object fails in my opinion. By even mentioning dates the movie could create a bigger context and also teach audiences a thing or two.