Riphagen: The Untouchable

 

This film, entitled Riphagen: The Untouchable is the story of one Andries Riphagen. As the film begins we met Dries, as he is called by some, accompanied by another man. They arrive at a home in Amsterdam in The Netherlands. It is some time in 1944.

They ask the homeowners if they are hiding any Jews. When an older woman is discovered behind a false wall, Riphagen (played by Jeroen van Koningsbrugge) tells her can help her. She will have to turn over all her valuables in exchange for a safe passage out of Amsterdam. She says she has no valuables.

But Riphagen finds a packet of diamonds hidden in her hair. He promises to return all of her jewels and diamonds after the war. He will need to take about 10 of the diamonds to satisfy the Germans who think that he is indeed working for them.

He tells this woman and other Jews that he is working with the Dutch Resistance and he can get them safely out of Amsterdam.

So, we are faced with this question: Is Riphagen a hero, or is he a traitor to his fellow Dutch people. Said another way is Riphagen an Oscar Schindler or is he something else?

This film was originally a three-part tv mini-series. Netflix thought that these three parts could be merged and made into a film. So you can see it with a Netflix streaming account.

I watched this film for the premise seemed intriguing. I’ve been to Amsterdam, and loved the place; so seeing it again was an idea I couldn’t resist. Of course Amsterdam in 1944 would not be the same as the Amsterdam where I spent some time in 2015.

Obviously, the Amsterdam in the film is not the one I remember from a year and half ago. In fact I watched for about 45 minutes before seeing even a hint of a canal. Maybe that is because a good portion of the film was shot in the Dutch city Utrecht which has an older and more historical look to it whereas Amsterdam has a much more modern look. Having said that, I can state that the topic of the film is a familiar topic – The Holocaust – albeit this story is told from a different angle and from a different perspective.

I must say that Jeroen van Koningsbrugge about whom you might say appears in this film as a version of the 70″s and 80’s actor Telly Savalas in appearance, gives a more than credible performance as the anti-Schindler.

As for the rest of the cast, I knew none of them, but found most them excellent with one exception – the character of Wim Sanders as played by Michel Sluysmans.

The two-hour plus film has a good crisp look to it. There’s not a preponderance of night scenes, or rain-drenched, or foggy scenes either.

The costume designer has done a wonderful job in recreating both the men and women suits and dresses of the time.

Also for the record, the automobiles used gave the definite sense of Europe in the 40’s as we saw both German and French cars.

At this point I have to confess that I am now out of superlatives and praise. Which leads us to the script, the pacing, and the direction. While this is a dark period in history, the construction of this film is that we definitely have an antagonist, which of course is Riphagen.

As for a hero, protagonist, or alternate lead – we might call in the character of Jan van Liempd (portrayed by Kay Greidanus). He seemed a tad young for the role, and while the actor did a good job of displaying the proper amount of passion at times, I found that he wasn’t a compelling character.

Of course that is the fault of the script and the direction. In fact, much of the script and direction gave us a film that too often seemed too languid, too slow, and was not involving. The screenplay credits go to  Paul Jan Nelissen and Thomas van der Ree. The director is Pieter Kuijpers.

Now each of these gentlemen may have made some mark in the fields of Dutch entertainment, but in my view, they’ve not delivered a riveting drama to us.

Certainly this is a story that we could say deserved attention, and hopefully would give the viewers  something to grapple with.  But the presentation was too matter-of-fact. Clearly, one should not call this a failed effort, or more of a documentary than a feature film. But in my view, this film simply didn’t deliver enough of an impact for me to give it a better review or rating.

Three point zero and that is a tad generous.

Here is an English Language trailer. Please note you will have to click the blue box to view the trailer on Vimeo.

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