Remodeling nightmare: ‘The New Rijskmuseum’ doc

Have you ever remodeled your house or lived in a building that underwent remodeling? Then you can sympathize with the madness of a renovation that began in 2003 and took longer than the estimated five years and then, needless to say, went very much over budget. That’s what happened with an old European museum, the Rijskmuseum and this documentary takes us through a condensed version of the process. Originally making its world premiere as an epic four-hour documentary in 2013, this version of “The New Rijskmuseum” has been trimmed down to a more modest and manageable 131 minutes (2 hours and 11 minutes).

Oeke Hoogendijk’s documentary was originally shown as four-TV episodes and the current version won an IDFA award for Best Dutch Documentary in November 2014.

For those unfamiliar with the Netherlands and who’ve never been to Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum is the Netherlands national museum and was first opened in 1885. It is located in Amsterdam, in the province of North Holland at the Museum Square. It is close to the Van Gogh Museum.

The museum has a very spiffy and modern website and its collection includes masterpieces by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) and Jan Havicksz Steen (1625-1779).

So if you’re wondering just how important a museum from a small country like the Netherlands could be, that should answer that question. Rembrandt is considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history and was part of the Dutch Golden Age.  He was born in Leiden and died in Amsterdam.

Vermeer was born and died in Delft. His “The Milkmaid” and “The Girl with a Pearl Earring” are among his most famous paintings with the latter inspiring a movie. “The Milkmaid” is at the Rijksmuseum as well as three others.

With a building so old you can imagine that renovation was bound to be hard, but it proved to be an intense battle between a bureaucracy, the shifty sands of public opinion and the Dutch Cyclists Union resulted in a change of plans, a change of directors and a cost that exceeded $500 million. The project began under the museum director Ronald de Leeuw (1996-2008) but ended under the current director Wim Pijbes (2008-present).

You can see the transformation of de Leeuw from an enthusiastic leader to a disenchanted man longing to extricate himself from the unending criticism. Even the architects ponder why they must change the plans since they won the contract based on the design.

Your worries and paperwork will seem small and trite compared to the massive amounts of documentation, literally boxes and boxes. This might ease your pain or give you nightmares. The result looks wonderfully minimalist and this documentary serves as an invitation to see a monument to both art and patience.

“The New Rijksmuseum” opened today, 19 June 2015, at the Pasadena Laemmle 7. In Dutch, English, French and Spanish with English subtitles.


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