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Movie turned famed historical journey into fiction

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

LEEUWARDEN – A new film aims to reconnect today’s Dutch with the exploits of their ancestors four centuries ago. Historians are not applauding. Back in 1596, a Dutch sea-faring expedition, looking for passage to China and the Indies somewhere northeast of Norway and beyond Russia and commanded by cartographer and captain William Barentsz, went horribly wrong. The ship eventually got lodged between huge ice sheets, near the island of Nova Zembla, where the crew built a hut hoping to outlast deadly ice bears and to survive in bitterly cold weather, the scarcity of food. The film is based on this historical and famed sea voyage but takes too much liberty in interpreting it. Movie critics are not impressed and Groningen maritime historian and Polar expert Lourens Hacquebord, who was part of a 1992 joint Russian-Dutch expedition to Nova Zembla, sees fundamental flaws. Barentsz, he commented, hired stable family men, but director Reinout Oerlemans portrays them as a bunch of scruffy boozers out to chase women. Barentsz and his crew survived a severe Polar winter but the movie scenery shows Polar summer scenery. Hacquebord is disappointed that the movie leaves negative impressions, while the 1596 crew kept a positive attitude, showed inventiveness, was disciplined and very keen to survive. Barentz and a remnant of the crew made it back home in 1597.