To many world travelers, Amsterdam is fondly known for its canals, coffee shops and pretty ladies in windows. For those of us who happen to be world cinema fanatics, like myself, there is also another treat in Amsterdam that should not be overlooked. That is the Nederlands Filmmuseum. Located in Amsterdam’s picturesque Vondelpark, the Filmmuseum houses some 35,000 film titles in its archives. During a recent business trip to Amsterdam, I made it a point to go to the Filmmuseum to get my film fix, and got far more than I expected from my experience, which included chatting with Rien Hagen, General Director, and Rieks Hadders, Deputy Director of the Filmmuseum, who gave me a lead on the silent film “Beyond the Rocks” they recently restored that screened at the New York Film Festival in October.
According to its fact sheet, the Filmmuseum “is the national centre of cinematography in the Netherlands,” and its main goal “is to encourage and promote film culture in the Netherlands.” In addition, the Filmmuseum acts as a film distributor by enabling “Dutch cinemas throughout the country to screen both classics and contemporary art house films,” and also as a producer of “found-footage films, historical programmes, theatrical shows and publications on film history.”
An example of the Filmmuseums’ found-footage production efforts was seen at this year’s New York Film Festival with the restored print of the silent film “Beyond the Rocks,” starring film legends Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson. According to Hagan, “the film had been lost for many years.” In addition to restoring the print, the Filmmuseum produced new sound and music for the film. There is a five-minute introduction in the polished version by Martin Scorsese. According to the New York Film Festival’s website, when the Filmmuseum “started cataloging vintage film prints (in 2000), they found an amber-tinted nitrate positive print of the film with only two minutes damaged beyond repair…[today the film] looks brands new.” “Beyond the Rocks” is currently being screened in the U.S. through distributor Milestone Films.
Like the American Museum of the Moving Image (AMMI) in New York, the Filmmuseum runs film series highlighting actors and directors including a Jane Fonda retrospective last month, and a planned Robert De Niro series sometime next summer, as well as regular screenings of current art-house films. Unlike the AMMI, the Filmmuseum does not have a walking tour of film artifacts and memorabilia, however, its Information Centre, open to students, researchers and the general public, is home to “the largest collection of books on film and film-related subjects in the Netherlands,” as well as photos, newspaper clippings, magazines and posters. Speaking of posters, don’t forget to stop by the Filmmuseum’s lobby where you can buy large posters for a mere €2,50 to €5,00 a piece. Now that’s a bargain!
For my visit to the Filmmuseum, I took in a Dutch subtitled version of the French film “Les Amants,” directed by Louis Malle and starring Jeanne Moreau, for whom the Filmmuseum was presenting a retrospective. I also viewed an exhibition of the films of Yevgeni Yufit, “a bizarre Russian independent filmmaker from St. Petersburg,” Hagen told me. “The themes in his films always have an atmosphere of death and they always have mad scientists.”
Hagen also mentioned that during the recent Netherlands Film Festival, there was a debate on preserving the cinematic heritage of the Netherlands. He told me that the Filmmuseum hopes to receive “as much as €34 million from the Netherlands Ministry of Culture,” and along with another film archive in the Netherlands, a total of €100 million.
I highly recommend to anyone interested in film to stop by the Filmmuseum upon their next visit to Amsterdam. My experience encouraged me to continue my exploration of world cinema and film preservation. It was truly an all-time high for me.
For further information, visit the Nederlands Filmmuseum website.