Because of his degrading political activities Professor Lluís Dalmau (Pere Ponce) is deported to a small island off the coast of Spain where he is free to converse with the locals and enjoy the picturesque beaches as long as he does not attempt to escape. Yet, as soon as his case is transferred to the local police department Professor Dalmau begins plotting his return to civilization. He quickly befriends the bartender (Feodor Atkine) at the local inn and most unexpectedly falls for a woman (Cristina Plazas) whose heart belongs to another man. Captivated by the beauty of the island and the charm of a woman who has given him a reason to forget his past Professor Dalmau will face a most difficult decision.
Winner of the Silver Benzaga Award at the Malaga Film Festival (2001) Sigfrid Monleon's La Isla del holandés a.k.a The Dutchman's Island is a quiet film that very much follows the steps of such notable productions as Gabrielle Salvatores' Oscar winning picture Mediterraneo (1991) and the classic Swept Away (1974) by Lina Wertmuller. With a simple story line which appears as straightforward as possible this virtually unseen in North America Spanish production delivers hundred minutes of beautiful vistas from the Spanish coastline and some most pleasurable Mediterranean tunes that fit perfectly the aura of the film.
Indeed there is very little in The Dutchman's Island that will surprise you with originality: the main characters are so transparent that one could easily guess where Sigfrid Monleon is heading from the very beginning. Yet, not even for a second did I feel bored or disappointed by what was shown on the screen. On the contrary I was perplexed by the simple beauty of the island where Professor Dalmau was serving his "sentence" and consequently felt jealous of the careless life the locals were enjoying.
As it was the case with both Mediterraneo and Swept Away where humor was used to spice up their vulnerable storylines The Dutchman's Island also relies on a good few laughs at critical moments where the narrative was lagging a bit. The interaction between Professor Dalmau and the locals (especially in the opening scenes when friendships were created) produced some notable moments of genuine humor that made a lasting impression on me.
The strongest appeal of The Dutchman's Island however comes from the unpretentious spirit of this film which consistently lulls the viewer with beautiful camera work and as little controversy as possible. Even when the village where Professor Dalmau was residing was facing a most difficult dilemma I was convinced that somehow tragedy will be avoided. Without a doubt The Dutchman's Island is one of those feel-good films that when done right could be so effective they truly manage to transport you to a world where at least for a while you feel safe and happy to be alive.
In 2002 The Dutchman's Island was nominated with a Goya Award for Best Screenplay-Adapted (Sigfrid Monleon, Ferran Torrent, Dominic Harari, and Teresa Pelegri), and won the Silver Benzaga Award for Best Music (Jose Manuel Pagan and Pascal Comelade).
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's this Spanish R2 release looks quite good. Colors are strong and convincing, contrast at a good level, detail is great, and edge enhancement by large appears tolerable. My only partial concern is the overcompresison of the image which a few times during day light scenes created an effect that I would describe as something one is more likely to mistake for heavy edge enhancement. With this said everything else looks great and the progressive transfer should meet the requirements of those with more sensitive eyes.
Encoded R2, PAL.
How Does the DVD Sound?
The Dutchman's Island offers two very curious audio options (both in Dolby Digital 5.1) - the first one being a Castellan 5.1 mix and the second one a Catalan 5.1 track. I assume that the producers of the DVD have decided to make it easier for those who feel uncomfortable with the either of the two Spanish dialects (spoken in this film) and have offered both. With this said the audio quality is flawless: crisp and clear revealing an excellent mixing job by the producers. With optional French, English, and Castellan subtitles.
There are a number of extras on this DVD but unfortunately they all appear without English subtitles. Therefore I am going to list them (only) as I can not comment in detail:
A simple "escapist" film about a man who rediscovers his passion for life amidst some of the most intoxicatingly beautiful Mediterranean vistas The Dutchman's Island is a good piece of entertainment if you are looking to chill out for a few hours or simply enjoy a glass of wine while a beautiful story is being offered to you. If you liked Mediterraneo give director Lluís Dalmau and his work a chance. RECOMMENDED.
This review was made possible with the kind assistance of Xploited Cinema.