You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Hell of ’63

Dutch-Frisian director Steven de Jong tackles his native province's biggest claim to fame in the technically impressive "The Hell of '63."

With:
With: Chava voor in 't Holt, Chris Zegers, Cas Jansen, Lourens van den Akker, Lottie Hellingman, Tim Douwsma, Cees Geel, Dirk Zeelenberg, Peggy Vrijens, Rense Westra, Hilbert Dijkstra, Pierre Bokma, Joop Wittermans, Chantal Janzen, Willeke van Ammelrooy.

Dutch-Frisian director Steven de Jong tackles his native province’s biggest claim to fame in the technically impressive “The Hell of ’63.” The thesp-turned-helmer gives an accessible big-race treatment to the arduous 1963 edition of the world’s longest skating marathon on natural ice — when extremely harsh weather resulted in only 1% crossing the finishing line. However, awkward shifts in tone make the journey far from smooth; the heavily promoted pic opened somewhat disappointingly Dec. 17. Still, Euro fests accepting of foreign-lingo crowdpleasers could still sign up.

The Elfstedentocht is a tour-skating race on the canals and lakes that connect 11 towns in the Netherlands’ northern Friesland province, where locals speak Frisian, a language more closely related to English than Dutch. The race is one of the biggest sports phenoms in the Low Countries, and doesn’t take place every year, as winters there are generally mild.

For the 1963 edition, the first in seven years, the weather was dangerously cold, with temperatures hovering around zero, with frequent blizzards. However, with Elfstedentocht Fever engulfing the nation, thousands of willing participants, the first-ever live TV coverage and a planned royal visit, the organizing committee couldn’t call the event off.

De Jong’s movie recreates both the popular elation and the organizational chaos with verve. But it has less success with its central characters.

Annemiek (Chava voor in ‘t Holt) is a nurse who lost her skating-crazy b.f. (Tim Douwsma) on the ice and is determined to finish the tour for him. During the race, she’s joined by Henk (Cas Jansen), a soldier who deserts the army for the duration of the marathon; ne’er-do-well laborer Kees (Chris Zegers), whose pregnant wife (Chantal Janzen) has given up on him; and tenacious farmer’s son Sjoerd (Lourens van den Akker), who’s 17, and hopes to prove to his stern family he’s worthy of his own farm.

Screenplay, by helmer Maarten Lebens and the late Jean Ummels, has only rudimentary character motivations and a linear narrative without surprises. Still, voor in ‘t Holt and van den Akker, the latter acting mainly in Frisian, manage to give their characters some credible dramatic heft. Their emotional bond, with an overlay of hesitant puppy love, is also the strongest.

The large cast of supporting players tends to slide into cliches, with a rotund news reporter (Dirk Zeelenberg) who hounds the organizing committee far-too-broadly sketched.

Special effects, dizzying camera movements and location work in Friesland and Finland all convincingly create a wintry hell-hole.

The Hell of '63

Netherlands

Production: A Bridge Entertainment, E1 Entertainment release of a De Hel Van 63 BV presentation of a Steven de Jong Prods., Bridge Entertainment production, in association with KRO. (International sales: The Gamboni Co., Hilversum, Netherlands.) Produced by Klaas de Jong, Steven de Jong. Executive producers, Ate de Jong, Sjef Scholte, Danielle Raaphorst, Mignon Huisman. Directed by Steven de Jong. Screenplay, de Jong, Jean Ummels, Maarten Lebens.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Francois Perrier; editor, Sandor Soeteman; music, Roland Schilperoort; production designer, Ruben Schwartz; costume designer, Ingrid Schagen, Lynn van Eyck; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Bas Lookman; sound designer, Peter Warnier; stunt supervisor, Willem de Beukelaer; visual effects, Dennis Kleijn; assistant director, Hilde Woutstra; casting, Betty Post. Reviewed at Theater Tuschinski, Amsterdam, Nov. 17, 2009. Running time: 108 MIN.

With: With: Chava voor in 't Holt, Chris Zegers, Cas Jansen, Lourens van den Akker, Lottie Hellingman, Tim Douwsma, Cees Geel, Dirk Zeelenberg, Peggy Vrijens, Rense Westra, Hilbert Dijkstra, Pierre Bokma, Joop Wittermans, Chantal Janzen, Willeke van Ammelrooy.(Dutch, Frisian dialogue)

More Film

  • Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween

    'Halloween' Footage Debuts at CinemaCon, Jamie Lee Curtis Promises It's 'Hella Scary'

    Dutch-Frisian director Steven de Jong tackles his native province’s biggest claim to fame in the technically impressive “The Hell of ’63.” The thesp-turned-helmer gives an accessible big-race treatment to the arduous 1963 edition of the world’s longest skating marathon on natural ice — when extremely harsh weather resulted in only 1% crossing the finishing line. […]

  • Amy Adams Woman in the Window

    Amy Adams to Star in Joe Wright's 'Woman in the Window'

    Dutch-Frisian director Steven de Jong tackles his native province’s biggest claim to fame in the technically impressive “The Hell of ’63.” The thesp-turned-helmer gives an accessible big-race treatment to the arduous 1963 edition of the world’s longest skating marathon on natural ice — when extremely harsh weather resulted in only 1% crossing the finishing line. […]

  • Ryan Gosling, Damien Chazelle'La La Land'

    Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling's Space Epic 'First Man' Dazzles at CinemaCon

    Dutch-Frisian director Steven de Jong tackles his native province’s biggest claim to fame in the technically impressive “The Hell of ’63.” The thesp-turned-helmer gives an accessible big-race treatment to the arduous 1963 edition of the world’s longest skating marathon on natural ice — when extremely harsh weather resulted in only 1% crossing the finishing line. […]

  • Tom Tykwer One Fine Day Films

    A DIY Spirit Triumphs in Africa's Film Training Programs

    Dutch-Frisian director Steven de Jong tackles his native province’s biggest claim to fame in the technically impressive “The Hell of ’63.” The thesp-turned-helmer gives an accessible big-race treatment to the arduous 1963 edition of the world’s longest skating marathon on natural ice — when extremely harsh weather resulted in only 1% crossing the finishing line. […]

  • Variety Highlights Top Filmmaking Schools

    Entertainment Education Report: The Best Film Schools in 2018

    Dutch-Frisian director Steven de Jong tackles his native province’s biggest claim to fame in the technically impressive “The Hell of ’63.” The thesp-turned-helmer gives an accessible big-race treatment to the arduous 1963 edition of the world’s longest skating marathon on natural ice — when extremely harsh weather resulted in only 1% crossing the finishing line. […]

  • Byron Allen CinemaCon

    Byron Allen Seeks Love for Independent Movie Studios at CinemaCon

    Dutch-Frisian director Steven de Jong tackles his native province’s biggest claim to fame in the technically impressive “The Hell of ’63.” The thesp-turned-helmer gives an accessible big-race treatment to the arduous 1963 edition of the world’s longest skating marathon on natural ice — when extremely harsh weather resulted in only 1% crossing the finishing line. […]

  • Santa Monica College Film Program

    Community Colleges Expand Their Cinematic Tracks

    Dutch-Frisian director Steven de Jong tackles his native province’s biggest claim to fame in the technically impressive “The Hell of ’63.” The thesp-turned-helmer gives an accessible big-race treatment to the arduous 1963 edition of the world’s longest skating marathon on natural ice — when extremely harsh weather resulted in only 1% crossing the finishing line. […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content