Into the new
This breathtaking documentary about the nature reserve the Oostervaardersplassen is in Dutch. But you don’t need language to grasp the beauty of the landscape and the power of the biggest herd of wild horses in Europe. And it’s here, in Holland.
A herd of wild horses trying to survive a harsh winter, goslings being chased by foxes and a multicoloured winter bird trying to seduce a female by treating her to fish. Who would have guessed this all occurs in the small, built-up country we call the Netherlands? The movie De Nieuwe Wildernis: Grote Natuur in een Klein Land shows that there is still hope for Dutch flora and fauna.
Last Sunday was the first official screening. Joris van Alphen, a 25-year-old Marine Biology student, was responsible for the underwater footage. He is excited about watching the movie for the first time, but not nervous. ‘I saw the first review today and we received five stars out of five.’
The movie has attracted a lot of media attention, as it is the first to focus on Dutch nature on the silver screen. It has already been compared to the classic BBC series Planet Earth. A big compliment, but not entirely valid, according to Joris. ‘People expect a lot from this movie and being compared to Planet Earth is probably the greatest compliment you can get in this field. However, unlike the BBC, we didn’t have the luxury of working with a team who can camp out in the same place for several months, waiting for a particular shot. The BBC has about 50 times our budget.’
In the cinema people are waiting anxiously for the movie to start. The production team shot 350 hours of footage over a period of two years in the Oostvaardersplassen, Holland’s very own nature reserve. Since it is fenced in, the general public are not allowed in this area.
The Oostvaardersplassen appears to be original nature, but isn’t. It’s 100% man-made. Even the animals were put there by humans. In short, new nature has been created in the Dutch way – an unnatural situation that has initiated all sorts of extraordinary processes and led to a new ecological balance.
It is interesting to discover what the Oostvaardersplassen harbours. Quite a lot, as it turns out! For instance, a thousand wild horses, the biggest herd in Europe, and a gaggle of geese, surrounded by what seem like a hundred goslings. The audience oohs and aahs at the sight of a few foxcubs who feed on goslings every day, slightly taken aback by the dryness of all the feathers, and at a new-born foal stumbling on his long legs for the very first time.
Paul Klaver was responsible for a lot of the footage, even though this is his first professional job as a nature filmmaker. ‘I studied Multimedia & Design in Groningen and had nature photography as a hobby, but I wanted to do more with photography. I contacted one of the moviemakers, who took me under his wing. Before I knew it I was living in a caravan near the Oostervaarderplassen for six months, being completely obsessed with the project.’
Being in the area so frequently, Paul saw some of the most beautiful things that nature has to offer. Some of the movie footage was purely accidental. ‘There was a script with things that we wanted to capture, but nature can’t be scripted. At one point a little deer was lying in the grass, hiding from the wild horses. But the female horses approached the deer, and tried to get him to stand up. Even though he didn’t belong to their breed of animal, their mother instinct rose.’
De Nieuwe Wildernis doesn’t just show the sunny side of nature. Even in The Netherlands, life can be dangerous for animals. A young wild horse who wasn’t fat enough for winter dies and goslings are killed by foxes. This is part of nature and very often it is best not to intervene, even though Paul sometimes wanted to. ‘You forge a link with these animals if you see them for several months, but there’s nothing you can do. However, when I see a horse with a broken leg I call someone. Otherwise, it would suffer unnecessarily.’
The joy and sadness of Dutch nature comes to the fore in De Nieuwe Wildernis. The movie is just as beautiful for people who don’t speak Dutch. The footage speaks for itself. When the movie finishes, there is a big ovation.
‘Cool!’ says Joris. ‘I was looking behind me and saw all those faces. That was amazing. Because I was so intensely involved in the movie, I noticed all the little mistakes and footage that didn’t feature in the movie, but overall I’m very happy with the result.’
Breathtaking and with the ability to give you goose bumps, De Nieuwe Wildernis scores five out of five.
The UK gives away four tickets (2 by 2). Look at facebook, coming thursday!