Saturday, March 23, 2024

Mirror of Holland

This morning I walked along our local canal, with bright sunny weather creating reflections of the barges and bridges, the buildings of Hoxton and Haggerston, a few trees and many joggers pounding down the path. This evening I watched Mirror of Holland, made up entirely of shots of canal reflections, which won the short film Palme d'Or in 1951. It begins with the windmill below and a young lad who bends down to see the image the 'right way round' - the rest of the film continues in this way, with the reflections turned into water-blurred moving images of farms, gabled houses, a church tower, locks and canal boats. The director Bert Haanstra went on to make many other documentary films - his other big success was based on another reflective medium, Glass (1958).

Mirror of Holland put me in mind of Haanstra's Dutch contemporary M.C. Escher, whose compositions like Puddle and Three Worlds are interested in how water can contain a landscape. There are some abstract moments in the film that look like Escher's Rippled Surface which also dates from 1950. Of course there are reflections in Dutch Golden Age paintings too and you could probably make a version of Haanstra's film by montaging these together - the example below is in Jan Van de Heyden's Country House on the Vliet near Delft (1665). 

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