Director: Pim van Hoeve | 174 minutes | drama | Actors: Barry Atsma, Jeroen Krabbé, Anne Prakke, Betty Schuurman, Pippa Allen, Hanne Arendzen, Hubert Fermin, Kees Boot, Sandrine Laroche, Xander van Vledder, Jessica Zeylmaker, Britte Lagcher, Jochem van der Woude, Alain Stevens, Victoria Omelczuk, Ger Beukenkamp, Stephen Liebman
Vincent van Gogh is one of the greatest artists our country has ever produced. His name is known all over the world. During his life (1853-1890) it was different. Van Gogh was a misunderstood soul, constantly in search of recognition. A man who was often in trouble with himself. A genius fool. The four-part miniseries “Van Gogh: A house for Vincent” (2012) shows how Van Gogh (Barry Atsma) fought his battle. But besides seeing Vincent doing his utmost to sell his paintings (he would eventually only sell one in his lifetime), we also see another Van Gogh – in 1959 – who wants to get rid of the paintings. This Vincent Willem (Jeroen Krabbé) is the painter’s cousin and sole heir. His famous surname has weighed heavily on his shoulders all his life. He is now so fed up with it that he tries to get rid of the paintings of his uncle, which had been collecting dust in his attic all this time. With the money he wants to buy into the prestigious project for the first high-speed train between the Netherlands and France.
The stories between Vincent and his cousin are intertwined. We see how Vincent struggles against all the prejudices that stand in his way. His uncle, with whom he works in the art trade as a young boy, does not give a cent for his talents. According to his mother he only brings bad luck. His father, who is a preacher, sees him as the prodigal son, but could do with him a little more lovingly. A career as a theologian / lay minister is already being nipped in the bud, and his love for the prostitute Sien (Jessica Zeylmaker) appears to have been short-lived. The only one who seems to believe in Vincent is his brother Theo (Anne Prakke), who sends him money from Paris. The correspondence between the two brothers is a common thread in the miniseries and a guideline for Vincent. After his family has turned their backs on him, he tries to gain a foothold as a painter in France. But time and time again, he is rejected or disappointed.
Certainly in the first two parts Vincent’s fascinating story is annoyingly interrupted by the “hassle” surrounding Vincent Willem’s high-speed train. It distracts from what it actually seems to be about. Initially, the link between both storylines is also hard to find. Only in the third part do they crawl towards each other, so that the line around Vincent Willem manages to add more to the whole. It is not due to the acting that the first two parts are less successful, because both Atsma and Krabbé put their best foot forward. Betty Schuurman as Vincent Willem’s wife is also in the right place. Unfortunately, the other characters are not given the space to develop fully and therefore remain one-dimensional. Even Theo, not an insignificant pawn in the story, remains a colorless figure. This too, like the lack of focus in the story, is mainly due to the script. It is indicated in advance that the screenwriters have allowed themselves some poetic freedom (especially as far as Vincent Willem’s story is concerned). That works out well, especially in the last two parts. The series is also a feast for the eyes, with beautiful landscape panoramas here and there that create a picturesque atmosphere. An ambiance that certainly suits a mini-series about Vincent van Gogh.
In terms of content, “Van Gogh: A house for Vincent” may not be what we had hoped for, thanks to solid acting by Atsma and Krabbé and the craftsmanship of the cameraman, this mini-series produced by the EO is quite acceptable.