Dutch Light

by Gabriel Shapiro

TDir. Maarten de Kroon

There really is something especially beautiful about the Netherlands. The windmills, the waterways, the ever-present, lolling, pregnant clouds. To those given to melancholia it all seems sad, where to someone of a cheerier disposition it appears that light has been softened, diffused and relaxed.

The Dutch landscape painters have long been credited with capturing this peculiar character of the light that shines on their homeland, but what, if anything, is this quantity of the light?

“Dutch Light” is a fascinating mixture of art forms all focused on the slightly strange task of capturing the intangible, pinning down that which can never be held. Light is something that most of us rarely consider, but for painters, as for filmmakers, it is one of the most crucial elements they manipulate.

This film explores the myths, the art, the facts, the artistic process, how history intercedes, and just about everything else attendant to capturing light. It is visually stunning, both in the number of paintings shown, and the gorgeous filming of landscapes in Holland and elsewhere.

A documentary that is ostensibly about art may seem a strange place to find an anti-development polemic, but there is a political tone present, one made all the more interesting by Holland’s recent political past.

Rembrandt and Vermeer are among the most famous of the artists discussed, but there are many more. After the beauty of the film fades you can dazzle you friends with cocktail party talks about the uses of grey by Weissenbruch and the Hague school and how Mondriaan isn’t really so different from the masters.

Perhaps next time you catch the light glimmering off the river, you’ll stop and ponder it for a while, soaking up the beauty around you as you would a ray of sunshine. Life is good.