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25 September 2013

Dood water (1934)

Every year during the last week of September, Utrecht is the Dutch capital of film. This is the time of the Netherlands Film Festival (NFF), when public and industry alike concentrate solely on Dutch cinema in all its facets. Like every year, EFSP organizes its own traditional Dutch Film Star Postcard Festival. So during the 32nd Netherlands Film Festival, from 25 September till 4 October, we will supply you again with postcards of Dutch stars and films. Veel plezier!, as we say in the Netherlands.

We start with one of the most remarkable Dutch films of the 1930s.  Dood water/Dead Water (1934) re-enacts the historical closing of the Zuiderzee (Southern Sea) between 1927 and 1932. The award winning drama was directed and co-written by Gerard Rutten and starred renowned Dutch stage actor Jan Musch as a doomed fisherman.

Max Croiset and Arnold Marlé in Dood water
Dutch postcard, no. 38996. Photo: Nederlandse Filmgemeenschap, Holland. Publicity still for Dood water/Dead water (1934) with Max Croiset and Arnold Marlé. Collection: Egbert Barten.

Dead Water


Dood water/Dead Water tells the dramatic tale of a conflict between young and old fishermen in the little village of Volendam about the fishing in the Zuiderzee (the former Southern Sea, now IJsselmeer).

In 1927, the construction of the Afsluitdijk (the enclosure dam which made a lake of the Zuiderzee) was started. In Volendam, there is talk of 'dead water' and people realize that everything will not be like it was.

The old fisherman Willem de Geus (Jan Musch) desperately tries to blow up the dam, but he dies during the explosion.

Dood water
Dutch poster for Dood water/Dead Water (1934).

Golden Lion


Dood water/Dead Water was largely shot on location, using natural light. The cameraman was Andor von Barsy, a respected Hungarian cinematographer who’d already been successful in the Netherlands with short avant-garde films such as Hoogstraat (1929).

At the second edition of the Venice Film Festival (Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica), the film won a Golden Lion for best cinematography.

Dood water received favourable reviews in the Italian press, and later also in the Netherlands and Germany. MGM distributed the low-budget production internationally. However, the film was not a commercial success.

Jan Musch
Jan Musch. Dutch postcard by REB in the series Portrettengalerij, no. 105.

One Of The Great Stars


The leading actor of Dood water, Jan Musch (1875-1960), was one of the great stars of the Dutch theatre during the first decades of the 20th Century.

In the 1930s he starred in a few Dutch films, including De Man zonder hart/The Man Without a Heart (Leo Joannon, 1937), and the thriller De spooktrein/The Ghost Train (Carl Lamac, 1939) with Fien de la Mar.

After the war, Gerard Rutten directed successful films like Sterren stralen overal/Stars Twinkle Everywhere (1953) and Het wonderlijke leven van Willem Parel/The Wondrous life of Willem Parel (1955) with Wim Sonneveld.

Dood water
Dutch postcard, no. 38993. Photo: Nederlandse Filmgemeenschap, Holland. Publicity still for Dood water/Dead water (1934). Collection: Egbert Barten.

Sources: Film in the Netherlands, MovieMeter (Dutch), Wikipedia (Dutch) and IMDb.

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