Of course we know it in Drenthe: the ghost stories of the white wives. But this natural phenomenon will soon also become known in the rest of the Netherlands. This is due to a new historical horror film that will soon be shown on VPRO and was recently shown at the International Film Festival Rotterdam.
“I love him Wild West“A Drenthe feeling,” says screenwriter Mark Nollkemper. “Especially in the Middle Ages when it was still a swampy area where farmers had a say. In the film we follow a kind of Christian community trying to survive in that wilderness with all the dark forces surrounding them.
The White Wife, a moving mist low over the landscape, plays an important role in the film. According to Radboud University theologian Arjan Sterkin, there are many stories about these apparitions. “They're different all over the Netherlands. It's very difficult to see a pattern in them. Some see them as some kind of nature gods, others call them witches, or demons, and still others call them fog-storms. There are many possible explanations. What kind of creatures are these.”
What is clear, however, is that all the stories are set in the eastern Netherlands. “White women in the east of the Netherlands are a well-known phenomenon. On the Randstad they think you're talking about a white woman,” laughs Nolkemper, who also lives in Amsterdam. He also looks at himself. His idea to make a film about white women came from Donald Duck.
“Amsterdam is a very good city. It's not a good source of inspiration for horror. I had to leave there. It had to be about something else. I love Holland and all the stories. In the east of Holland the stories are still really alive.”
A long period of research and exploration followed. Nollkaemper spent a lot of time in the Mertens Institute's Story Bank and in the university library. He also went looking for old plays about white wives. “The more you delved into it, the less fairytale-like it became and the more terrifying it became,” he says of the process. “As I got into it, I got more and more excited.”
In the end, the eye fell on the gods of Drenthe. He preferred those stories to those of other regions. “Drenthe has a very strong relationship with the Witte Wieven, as well as with the dolmens. Although almost every province in the eastern Netherlands claims the Witte Wieven as their own. The Witte Wieven of Drenthe was the coolest thing for me.”
Sterken was also asked to help while researching the project. “He is of course a religious scholar and I would say he admires the East Netherlands. This has increased Drenthe and Le Saxon's passion for the project.”
The film is spoken in Low Saxon. “If everyone in the movie was talking superficially about Amsterdam or Rotterdam, everyone would think that's not true,” says Sterken. “But when you hear that Low Saxon, it really adds something. It gives a certain mysticism, but it also gives a 'feeling of home'.”
Historically, the story is not 100% true. “Folktales are never the same,” says Sterkin. “It changes over time. What this movie does well is that it's based on stories about white women, but it also gives it a whole new twist. It has a very nice feminist message. This is the old thing. Bringing the new together.”
Although Drenthe was an inspiration to the film makers, the film was ultimately not filmed in Drenthe. The recordings were made in a medieval village in Apeldoorn and across the border in Belgium. The strict nature regulations in the Netherlands were the main reason for this. “Unfortunately, filming in nature in Belgium is a little easier. I think we would have liked to film in Drenthe and might do so in the future. But for now it would have been better to do it in Belgium.”
Ellert and Brammert, Weil, Wisps, or Statues. Nollkaemper says he's not done with Drenthe at the moment. “Who knows, it might turn into a big world full of horror and fantasy.”
Witte Wieven is directed by Didier Konings and can be seen on the program on March 16 Koolhoven offers On NPO3.
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