The bike tunnel through the Rijksmuseum during construction (photo: Jane van Raaphorst / Het Nieuwe Rijksmuseum: De Film) - Credit: The bike tunnel through the Rijksmuseum during construction (photo: Jane van Raaphorst / Het Nieuwe Rijksmuseum: De Film)
Rijksmuseum documentary director opens up on award-winning film
A new documentary telling the story of Amsterdam’s famous Rijksmuseum, and the years of construction work that went on while it was shuttered, took the award for Best Dutch Documentary at the International Documentary Film-festival Amsterdam last month, weeks before it opens in cinemas. Het Nieuwe Rijksmuseum: De film will be screened in theatres across the Netherlands beginning December 11. Director Oeke Hoogendijk spent ten years filming the massive renovation of the Rijksmuseum, contrasting raw demolition and ruin-like images with the delicate art pieces inside. She tells NL Times that when asked to do this project, which was supposed to last about five years, she initially declined. The thought of filming building procedures and construction sights didn’t much appeal to her. “But after realizing that a restoration of this scale could generate lots of messy trouble and interesting conflicts, my filmmakers’ mind began to rattle”, she says. Ten years and 400 hours of footage later, her speculation proved her right. She made an award-winning four-part television series, shown on NTR, and forged ahead, like the construction of the museum itself, to create the movie. “It is normal to kill your darlings in the editing room when working on a documentary, but piecing together this movie felt like a giant massacre!” Hoogendijk said. In her character-based film, curators, directors and architects face problem after problem. The biggest one caused by the people of Amsterdam, who fight a tough battle to keep open the cycle path, which runs right through the middle of the building. “I spend more time on cyclists than on art,” said Rijksmuseum chief Wim Pijbes in the film. But the movie, luckily, does focus on the art. The faces in the precious paintings, stuck away in gloomy depots for over a decade, stare at us with terribly sad eyes, the sound of whispering voices adding a dimension to their story. And we witness a curator become emotional as two prominent Japanese statues are unveiled and placed in their newly renovated home, because this story, eventually, does end well. “We meet a cross-section of workers who inhabit this ‘cathedral of art’ during its prolonged period of renovation,” the IDFA jury said in handing out the award. “During this time we come to respect and admire the curators who are entrusted with some of the greatest art treasures of human civilization housed in Holland’s prodigious Rijkmuseum.” Oeke Hoogendijk is certainly proud of her award, and in secret, admits that she too enjoys cycling under this landmark building. Het Nieuwe Riijksmuseum: De film is shown in 36 cinemas from December 11. It will be shown with English subtitles at Eye filmmuseum in Amsterdam, Heerenstraat Theater in Wageningen and Lumiere in Maastricht.