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Dutch Light (DVD Review)

28 Sep, 2008 By: Holly J. Wagner

Dutch Light

Prebook 9/30/08; Street 10/28/08
$29.95 DVD
Not rated.

Stunning presentation and thoughtful commentary bring us the magic of Dutch Light, the storied inspiration for artists for hundreds of years from the Old Masters forward.

Is it a perception, an observation, a style, an illusion? Did art imitate life or is life ceasing to imitate art? Was Dutch Light ever real, and if it was, was it lost or does it still exist?

Those are the questions posed and answered from perspectives of art, art history, science, philosophy and environmentalism.

Furthering the discussion is American artist James Turrell, who says Dutch Light is closest to the light in Arizona’s Painted Desert, where he’s worked for more than 30 years and has an observatory in a volcano crater dedicated to studying the light under the expansive desert sky.

The sky is a key part of the discussion, as some commentators suggest the source of Dutch Light is the sky that rolls endlessly to the North Sea — did Holland’s reclamation of the Zuider Zee for farmland over the course of the 20th century destroy a reflection off the former waterway that created the special light?

All together and surrounding a long series of exposures of the reclaimed area, we’re asked to consider analyses of artists, compare the light captured photographically to virtual gallery tours of historic paintings, and decide for ourselves whether the reclamation forever changed the celebrated light.

The program is political without being insulting, offering a broad swath of views that could not possibly have been fully represented without faithful and seductive photography.

Dutch Light is a surprising and amazing film, full of life, light, philosophy, hope and the varied perspectives that make us think again — everything that makes a documentary great. Great for anyone not put off by partial subtitles — but they wouldn’t get it anyway.

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