- 27.5.2013 11:11 -
Mirror to the Society
RETROSPECTIVE OF BERT HAANSTRA – Filmmaker Holding a Mirror to the Society
Bert Haanstra was born in 1916 in Holten in the Netherlands. He became a professional filmmaker in 1947. He received international acclaim for his short documentary film Mirror of Holland, which was awarded the Grand Prix for a short film at the Cannes festival in 1951. Throughout his carrier, Haanstra has won over a hundred film awards. As a director, he holds a mirror to the society, reflecting also on the material most mirrors are made of – glass in his film of the same name Glass: a short, Oscar-winning film made at glassworks in Leerdam and Schiedam that shows the work of glass blowers. His other films include a fresh and humorous montage entitled ZOO (Haanstra draws striking similarities between humans and animals).
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Bert Haanstra was born in 1916 the town of Holten and became a professional filmmaker in 1947. He won international acclaim with his short documentary Spiegel van Holland/ Mirror of Holland for which he received the Grand Prix du court métrage at the Cannes-festival of 1951. During the fifties he made six films for Shell, among others The Rival World (1955) on insects spreading deadly diseases and how to fight them. In 1958 his documentary Glass, a filmic improvisation made in a glassfactory, won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject. He directed several fiction films. Fanfare, a comedy situated in a small Dutch village, is still the Netherlands' second most popular film ever (measured at the box office), only surpassed by Paul Verhoevens Turkish Delight. Abroad however, Fanfare was hardly noticed. In several shorts and in long documentaries like Alleman/ The Human Dutch and Stem van het water/ The Voice of the Water Haansta reflected on The Netherlands and its inhabitants. All these films made him one of the most popular filmmakers in the history of Dutch cinema. The documentary Alleman was seen in the cinema by 20 percent of the total Dutch population. In the seventies and eighties Haanstra addressed a new subject. He made several films about animals. In the long documentary Bij de beesten af/ Ape and Super-Ape (1973), for which he collaborated with Frans de Waal and Jane Goodall, among others, he compared the behavior of animals and human beings. In total Haanstra received close to a hundred awards. He died in 1997 in the town of Hilversum.
The Human Dutch - In the big cinema documentary The Human Dutch, Bert Haanstra paints a portrait of The Netherlands and the Dutch, in his own unparalleled manner. Partly with the aid of a hidden camera he observes people in the most diverse situations. He shows the unusual in the usual and the usual in the unusual. The harsh years of the post war era of reconstruction have passed and for most people life is better than before. The Human Dutch shows a certain contentment. Haanstra sees a world where positivism prevails. Of course people also have their shortcomings and their peculiarities, but there isn’t much wrath in the director’s fellow-countrymen. The scene of the little boy on wooden skates who keeps on falling down, and after much practice manages to stay briefly upright, became a favourite with the audience. Another scene that produced lots of enthusiasm was the one with a winking Queen Juliana. The images of the extremely chaste Dutch on the beach at Scheveningen make it clear that quite a bit has changed since then. And a lot of the audience at the time wanted to know if it was still ‘on’ between the sweethearts who were being spied on whilst arguing on a bench in the Oosterpark in Amsterdam. No, it was over. Simon Carmiggelt wrote and narrated The Human Dutch. His view on humanity was similar to Haanstra’s, and the public could relate to their vision: 1.6 million Dutch went to see this in the cinema. The film was awarded a Golden Bear in Berlin and in Los Angeles it received an Oscar nomination.
Rembrandt, Painter of Man - In Rembrandt, Haanstra shows that it is possible to make a fascinating film, only with images from paintings. He had to travel though all over Europe to numerous museums and private owners in order to film the works of art. In the work of the great painter, Haanstra recognizes his particular interest in man as an individual human being, cutting straight through all the religious motives. And Haanstra also wants to see Rembrandt as an individual. Although the film was made as part of the Rembrandt-Year 1956 and partly meant to promote The Netherlands internationally, references to the Fatherland are absent. In the most famous fragment of the film, we see through a series of self portraits running into one another how the painter irreversibly ages: a great man too is marked by life. Through this sequence of images, Haanstra achieved a result that reminds us of present day computer animation.