A movie review of “The New Rijksmuseum”: This compelling documentary follows the agonzing restoration of Amsterdam’s famous art museum over 10 years. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
As Seattle well knows, even the most well-intended urban development projects involving demolition and construction have a way of colliding with unanticipated problems, conflicting agendas and cost overruns.
Welcome to “The New Rijksmuseum,” an extraordinary documentary about the agonizing decade it took to gut and renovate Amsterdam’s famous art museum, built in 1895 and home to Dutch Master paintings, Asian antiquities, 20th-century works and more.
The film’s U.S. theatrical release — trimmed from a two-part, four-hour cut to a riveting 131 minutes — is a limber, intuitive, fly-on-the-wall history of the implementation of a grand idea: design a world-class entrance for the Rijksmuseum’s beautiful exterior and completely rebuild the interior.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘The New Rijksmuseum,’ a documentary written and directed by Oeke Hoogendijk. 131 minutes. Not rated (equivalent to PG). In Dutch, with English subtitles. Grand Illusion.
Things quickly go off the rails in 2003, and multiple crises slow and halt the project’s momentum until 2013, when the institution reopened. Everyone from Amsterdam’s bicyclists to government inspectors challenge different stages of the process, clinging to narrow interests.
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It all proves too much for the museum’s director, and his successor soon basks in cynicism and passive-aggressiveness as a coping mechanism. While we spend time looking at some of the Rijksmuseum’s magnificent collection, filmmaker Oeke Hoogendijk is really telling a human story about ambition, tunnel vision, disappointment and exhaustion.
Remarkably, Hoogendijk maintains visual and tonal consistency throughout those 10 years, and she comes to know museum staffers so well that, in a way, they become works of art, too. When he cuts from a historian talking about one definition of feminine beauty in paintings to the image of bright red lipstick on a woman from the museum’s restoration team, Hoogendijk breathes life into this compelling reality drama.