Dutch new film on 1961


This Dutch video is the trailer of the new film Het Leven is Vurrukkulluk. Which means ‘Life is wonderful’, but with an unusual spelling for the Dutch word ‘verrukkelijk’. I went to see the film on 4 February 2018.

The film is about one day in the year 1961, in around the Vondelpark in Amsterdam city. In 1961, Remco Campert published his novel with the same title, on which the film is based.

Dutch director Frans Weisz, 23 years old in 1961, wanted to make Het Leven is Vurrukkulluk his first film. He wrote a script, jointly with Campert. But filming did not go ahead then: money problems. Instead, Weisz’ first film became Het Gangstermeisje (A Gangstergirl), in 1966, based on another novel by Campert.

The Internet Movie Database summary of Het Leven is Vurrukkulluk says:

Life Is Wonderful is a feel-good movie about love and longing. Best friends Mees and Boelie are spending a beautiful spring day in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark. It seems like just a normal day, until they meet the young and attractive Panda. While the heat rises in the park, it’s nowhere to be found between the long-married couple Etta and Ernst-Jan. Ernst-Jan suspects Etta of cheating and has his own ideas of how to catch her in the act. We also meet Rosa and Kees, old lovers whose paths cross after decades of not seeing each other. On this spring day in Amsterdam, their love starts blooming again.

A film review by Rob Lubbersen remarks that there are anachronisms in the film. Tattoos, mobile phones, Segway transporters: these did not exist in Amsterdam in 1961. Ring-necked parakeets did not live in the Vondelpark in 1961. They do now; one hears their calls in the film. Why the anachronisms? asks Lubbersen. Because Frans Weisz did not have the budget to transform the 2017 Vondelpark into the 1961 Vondelpark? Other reviewers say this expresses the idea that, while the main characters still live in 1961, their surroundings have become 2017. This, they say, is faithful to the poetic imagery in the book by Campert; who is not only a novelist but a poet as well.

In the film, teenage girl character Panda refers to the war for Algerian independence from France then. Though France like the Netherlands was a NATO member state, there was sympathy for Algerian independence among anti-colonialist people in the Netherlands. On 13 December 1959, the Dutch broadcasting organisation VPRO had a television charity marathon to help Algerian refugee children who had fled to Morocco. Right-wing Dutch Foreign Minister Joseph Luns, ex-member of the Dutch nazi party, and later NATO general secretary, opposed this: western new Guinea was then still a Dutch colony, and Luns wanted French support to keep it that way. Nevertheless, the pro-Algerian children show became the first Dutch TV charity marathon.

In the film. Panda says she will take the night train from Amsterdam to Paris, together with her lover, an Algerian independence fighter. From Paris, they plan to go further south, to Algeria, to join the freedom fight.

Frans Weisz is from a Jewish family. The nazis murdered his father at Auschwitz. His mother survived Auschwitz, because, she said ‘she so desperately wanted to see Frans again’. Frans survived the war in hiding.

Frans Weisz’ son Géza plays the 1961 twenty-something Boelie role in the film. Remco Campert plays Boelie later, in his eighties.

There are differences between the film and the book. Eg, in the novel, there are references to the World War II past of some characters; not so in the film. Also, in the book, Boelie, Mees and Panda beat and rob an old man; in the film just Panda throws him into the water. The name of the old man is Kees Bakels. He is the main character in the 1923 novel Kees de Jongen, by Dutch socialist author Theo Thijssen. Thijssen’s book describes Kees as an 1890s working class boy in his early teens, who falls in love with the girl Rosa Overbeek. Towards the end the film, Panda brings Kees and Rosa, now seniors, together again, after they had not seen each other for decades.

Mees in one of the final scenes, at a party, sees a stuntman jump off a balcony with an umbrella as parachute; and suddenly feels happy (wonderful).

Remco Campert last words in the film are that the two male main characters never saw Panda again. Her ‘Algerian freedom fighter’ lover turns out to be fake, neither Algerian nor freedom fighter.

Pauline Kleijer writes in a review that it is a pity that Panda in the book has interesting things to say; while as the film role she is a cliché pretty teenage girl. Weisz himself has a different view, considering Panda the real heroine of the story.

In the last images of the film, Remco Campert walks away from the Vondelpark bench where he had been sitting, telling about the past.

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