Tuesday, August 9, 2016

my private rotterdam... cinematic mise-en-scène

I arrived in Rotterdam with a 75-year-old story on my mind, a story that my father-in-law had told our family many times and then written about vividly in his ongoing memoir. 
He was sixteen years old when he witnessed the first German Luftwaffe landing on the River Maas while standing on the Oosterkade bank of the river directly across from Noordereiland (North Island) where I was staying at a lovely AirBnB (and where my father-in-law's father had his office as the manager of a ship-building company).
His brother had even managed to photograph the event before his camera was confiscated by a Dutch policeman who was soon shot down by the invading Germans. A few days later, Rotterdam was bombed into submission and the Battle of the Netherlands was quickly over, but Holland remained occupied until 1945.
The camera was retrieved from the dead policeman and returned to the family later on that same momentous day, but the film had been removed - and to this day, my father-in-law does not know if it had been destroyed or stored away and forgotten about, proof of a personal historical experience now perhaps lost forever.

View of the Nieuwe Maas river from the Willemsbrug looking west towards the Erasmusbrug, with the Oosterkade on the right bank across from Noordereiland on the left.

The view from my perch on the top floor of an older apartment house that survived the bombing on the Noordereiland.

The surviving apartment houses on the Noordereiland now dwarfed by the Maastoren (the tallest building in the Netherlands) behind and further down the Wilhelminaplein, OMA's massive De Rotterdam's staggered vertical blocks.

Across the Erasmusbrug is a mid-20th century apartment building where my mother-in-law's parents had lived on the 10th floor for a while.

A flock of swans float towards the Erasmusbrug that is known affectionately as "The Swan" by the locals.

At the end of the Wilhelminapier where the headquarters of the Holland America Line once stood prominently alone, it has since been converted into the Hotel New York which has retained much of the nostalgic design features and furnishings of the historic shipping offices.

"Rotterdam NightTide"
a short film of evening scenes on the Nieuwe Maas river set to the contemplative music composed by my son ENZIO VERSTER.

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