This time I had to think a long time before I had my subject for a new column for the Dutch website Undercover-Network. I choose my subject after I had been to an incredible event, where I was looking forward to for months: Sail Amsterdam.Once in every five year, the city Amsterdam organizes this grand event where many different ships, from all around the world, settle down in Amsterdam for a few days. During these days you can visit the ships and walk along the wharf In 2010 I had the pleasure to work on this event, but this time I could actually enjoy. You could ask what Sail Amsterdam has to with films, but that’s a lot. There are many films where the story has everything to do with ships and boats, most of them are based on historic events. I must confess I haven’t seen a lot of them, only the blockbuster, but there are in fact some interesting films to discuss. So this time my favourite films where ships or boats are in the lead!
One of my favourite films – which I have seen more than once – are the ones in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. The most interesting ship in these films is the ‘The Black Pearl’, a gorgeous ancient ship with black sails and according to others the fastest ship. Captain Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp, is the captain of this ship. However, his leadership is tested a lot of times. The first film, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, dates back to 2003 and the fifth film already has a release date of 12 July 2017. The films in which pirates have to face the dangers at sea, take place on the water. It is therefore not surprising that a lot of ships have been used for these films, all with a 18th-century appearance. In the second film, Jack Sparrow has to deal with Davy Jones and his ship: ‘The Flying Dutchman’.
A very popular Dutch film, which came out this year, is Michiel de Ruyter – which is also on my ‘to-watch list’. The film tells the story about one of the greatest naval hero in Dutch history: Michiel de Ruyter. During the Golden Age, De Ruyter was at the helm of the Dutch fleet at the time that the Netherlands was attacked by Britain, France and Germany. De Ruyter sailed on the ship ‘The Seven Provinces’. However, the film itself used four different ships, including a replica of the VOC-ship ‘Batavia’. Besides that the film is probably quite entertaining, it is also a piece of history and therefore a good reason to see the film.Another successful Dutch film with ships is Nova Zembla from 2011. Also this is a film I haven’t seen yet, although my parents own the dvd. Nova Zembla shows the last exploring of Willem Barents and Jacob van Heemskerck. The trip went to India, but the men on the ship were faced with severe weather. Off the coast of Nova Zembla, their ship got stranded in the ice and they have to ‘overwinter’. This part of the story sounds pretty interesting, however the makers of the film added a romance – which was not well received – and according to the critics, the film is full of historical inaccuracies. Nevertheless, I’m still pretty interested in Nova Zembla, the first Dutch 3D film!
De Schippers van de Kameleon (The Skippers of the Kameleon in English), is a Dutch family film I saw last week on the TV. Although the film takes place more on land than the previous films, and lacks a large ship with sails sailing in the raging sea, it certainly fits in this list. The twins Hielke and Sietse lives in a Frisian village and really want a boat. When their father buys an old boat, the boys started to refurbish the old sloop. The only thing missing is a working engine. Once they get hold of a motor, it’s time to test the boat. The sloop eventually adds a lot of value to the story because Hielke and Sietse use their fast boat to catch two thieves, which makes the twins the heroes of the village.
The Bounty is an American film from 1984 starring Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins. The film tells the story of the historic mutiny on the ship ‘The Bounty’ in the 18th century. The mission of the ship was to pick fruit in Tahiti and then transporting it to the Caribbean. For unknown reasons, Lieutenant-at-sea Fletcher Christian rebelled against the command of Captain William Bligh, what results in many deaths. A number of men who did not join the mutiny committed a dangerous journey in a small boat and eventually arrive on the island of Pitcairn. The film from 1984 is not the first time this medieval story is filmed. In 1962, Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard starred in Mutiny on the Bounty.
The last film I want to discuss is one who might not really fit in this list: Titanic. The film is based on a historical event and it features a boat. However, the ‘Titanic’ was a steamer and had no sails, in contrast to the films above. In addition, the film from 1997 does not tell a biographical story of a naval hero, captain or skippers. The Titanic is mainly a romantic disaster film where the ship serves as the backdrop for a fictional love between two fictional characters. But since Titanic is one of my favorite films of all time, I couldn’t just leave this one out of the list!
It appears that many of these films, where ships and their crew have the leading role, are based on true stories. They are often biographical narratives in which data are collected from logs. Obviously there are more of these films to be found. Choose a naval hero and it’s almost a guarantee you’ll find a film or book about it. The link from films to Sail Amsterdam is not so strange. During this amazing event, all these kind of ships were there to admire. Old-fashioned and new tall ships (some of which are replicas), steamers, yachts and smaller boats. I really have enjoyed the event and I’m planning to watch these films soon!