Roel Reine Talks Admiral as Guerilla Filmmaking

Dutch director-cinematographer Roel Reiné (Death Race 2 & 3)  has made a dazzling epic portraying one of the most important events in his country’s history: the 17th century Anglo Dutch wars. Admiral stars Frank Lammers as beloved Dutch Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, who commanded the Dutch fleet when the Netherlands was attacked by England, France, and Germany.

Admiral (a good bet for the Dutch foreign-language Oscar entry) was filmed on location in the Netherlands for €10M, and is produced by Klaas de Jong and co-stars Charles Dance, Rutger Hauer, Aurelie Meriel, and Sanne Langelaar. It recently screened at the 2015 Beijing International Film Festival and is repped by Arclight Films worldwide (except Benelux). I recently spoke with Reiné when he was in LA showing his film.

Bill Desowitz: Admiral is a great lesson about the politics of war and power and property. It helps us understand that nothing changes.

Roel Reiné: It’s true. But you don’t want to end up with a history lesson like a documentary, so it’s very difficult because you wanna tell so much stuff. But there is no kind of year mentioned. I compact the story within a nine-month period and all the actors have an average age. That was right for the story but also appealing for an audience, making it easier for them to connect with the characters. And in those nine months, I tell 22 years of Dutch history.

BD: That’s a lot of history for 2 1/2 hours. But it certainly simplifies things while being very compelling. What were some other choices?

RR:  The Dutch language is modern in this movie and I also took out all the wigs except for the Prince and King Charles [his uncle]. I love wigs and think they’re beautiful, but I even had them take them off because it helped to get a really big audience in the Netherlands. I didn’t want to distance them from the movie.

BD: After making a lot of American movies, what was it like shooting this in the Netherlands?

RR: I learned how to make with low budgets a high production value.  I like Master & Commander, so I like to make my movies with that scale and that scope.  And how do you do that? By being really smart. You rent costumes and we got them from Spain and the costumes for Charles were from the Elizabeth movie. Also, shooting in Holland and not using any sets. Everything was on existing 17th century locations and because we were doing Dutch history, everyone wanted to be in this movie. We had 5,000 extras.

BD: And the ships?

RR: I wanted to stay away from green screen and building ships and putting ships on sound stages because that makes it very expensive and very ugly. So from day one, I said we need to shoot this on the water and in the center of Holland there’s a really big lake with no horizon so it feels like an ocean. So we used this spot, which had a dock, and we built another dock, and we had three ships and two of them could sail and had an engine and the other one could not sail and had an interior that was like a floating museum on 1:1 scale in all the details of all the levels and decks. That was our main ship. So I would put one ship at one location and use the other ships to do pass bys. Therefore, I could shoot masters where I would do a real sea battle with two ships that were moving and one that wasn’t and we could do all those battles. And with computers, I put more ships in the background. It was very optimized, like doing The Hobbit as guerrilla filmmaking

BD: And for the look you referenced Rembrandt?

RR: Yes, there even a few shots that were like the original paintings. For example, the Parliament: there’s a famous painting that has all these flags up and are from the 80 Years War that we had with Spain.  We reconstructed everything and framed it just like the painting so you are in the painting. And in the movie you are closer and move the camera. And when he dies there’s a line of people like a snake through the church. It makes no sense but there is a very famous painting. So I recreated it exactly, even all the costumes and where the horses are, according to the painting. And the wide shots are exactly framed where the painter was standing where he did that painting. So I love that stuff and the movie’s full of that.

BD: Favorite moments?

RR: I love the moment when he’s with his wife on the harbor shore and they’re saying goodbye while they know he’s never coming back. For me, even now when I tell it, I get emotional because it’s a beautiful moment and they also play it so well. And I remember that I told the actor, Frank Lammers, who’s a really big star in Holland, that I wanted him to cry. And he said to me, “I don’t do crying.  You’re not gonna push me. If it happens, it happens.”  But then after I said that, I was at his home and he cooked dinner for me. An hour later he said, “What do you think if I bring my real daughter and have her play my daughter?” And the little girl was his daughter. That was so smart of him because what happened was when he says goodbye to his daughter, tears come out automatically. I love that.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Cinematography, Crafts, Movies, Tech, Trailers

2 Responses to Roel Reine Talks Admiral as Guerilla Filmmaking

  1. Peter Herweijer

    Roel Reiné made the impossible possible by making this epic movie which has the looks of the 17th century realtime world of the painter Rembrandt.
    Combining set photography with the opportunity to play one of the members of the
    ‘Staten-Generaal’ was a privilege and I’m sure The Admiral – once selected as the Netherlands contribution for the 2016 Acadamy Awards – will be a serious Oscar candidate.

  2. Anton Melein

    Many (former) Dutch Marines played roles as (figurant) crew on the ships, during the battle situations. Or where standing guard while the Admiral was being buried.
    An great epic movie and an honour being part of it.

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