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Dutch Light - arthouse and international DVD / documentary DVD review
DUTCH LIGHT Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 stars
Featuring: Jan Andriesse, Svetlana Alpers, Jan Dibbets, Vincent Icke, Günther Können
Directors: Maarten de Kroon, Pieter-Rim de Kroon   Distributor: Microcinema International
DVD release: 28 October 2008   Runtime: 144 minutes
(1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
DVD Features: Original cinema version (91 minutes: Voice Over Dutch and/or English subtitled - Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1), International TV version (53 minutes: Voice Over and/or subtitled in English, French, Dutch, German, Spanish - Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1)

Holland is flatter than a pancake, reclaimed from the sea, and always cloudy: that's the recipe for Dutch Light. This lovely-to-look-at film is an artist's meditation on the visual perception of sunlight, especially as perceived by other artists.

Dutch light is most recognizable in the paintings of 17th-century artists such Vermeer, Koninck and van Goyen, who mastered and promulgated a technique of contrast and shading that makes their work some of the most valuable paintings on the planet. In the 19th century, critics began writing about Dutch light, creating a mythos that resulted in Holland becoming a destination landscape for artist-pilgrims. The technique of painting light in the Dutch style can be seen in the work of the British artists J.M.W. Turner and (American-born) James Whistler.

While exploring the perception, and artistic reception, of Dutch light, the film is itself an example of the magic of sunlight in image. Photographing the Dutch landscape for a year, the film is chock full of gorgeous examples of precisely the sort of things being talked about in interviews and quotes.

Around 1979, the artist Joseph Beuys said Dutch light was disappearing. The Zuiderzee, the inland sea at the liquid heart of the Netherlands, was blocked off from the North Sea, leaving behind a freshwater lake named for the river that drains into it, Ijsselmeer. Beuys argued that the diminished surface area in the heart of Holland was causing it to lose its famed light. Although he might be right (even as the film's excellent cinematography gives lie to the notion), there is simply no way to prove it.

Dutch artist Jan Andriesse eloquently sums up the film's meditation on light:
"What distinguishes Dutch light is that it's constantly changing. It has to do with geographical and meteorological conditions. There's so much water in the air, which diffuses the light. There's so much surface water which reflects the light.. The only thing the eye perceives is a difference. Change stimulates consciousness. Even more important is that painters have conveyed their awareness of the light."
What can't be put in words is the beauty of place. The Netherlands' distant, flat horizon throws the world open to the movement of clouds and water dappled in sun; the filmmakers' cameras speak lyrically of light's changeling ability to stimulate consciousness.
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reviewed by Brian Charles Clark
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