Eye Filmmuseum is temporarily closed

As a result of the measures to combat the coronavirus, Eye Filmmuseum is temporarily closed. Terrace Eye Bar Restaurant and Eye Shop are open.

Read more

The Wieringermeer of Marofilm

On three occasions between 1938-1948, Alex Roosdorp and his wife Marie filmed the Wieringermeer area, in the Dutch province of North Holland.
Alex Roosdorp
was a photography dealer based in Deventer, who also worked as a filmmaker starting in the early 1930s. For his film company Marofilm (named after his wife Marie Roosdorp - van den Berg), he made at least one educational film every year for the agricultural sector.

Wieringermeer, still from Herwinnen door werken (1946), Alex Roosdorp.
Wieringermeer, still from Herwinnen door werken (1946), Alex Roosdorp.

The Zuiderzee Works

The first time that the Roosdorp couple filmed in the Wieringermeer, the land had only recently been created from a former inland sea. The reclamation of this land had begun in 1927, as part of the Zuiderzee Works. This newly created polder would connect the former island of Wieringen to the mainland. In addition, a new area of nearly 20,000 hectares became available for agricultural use.

The area had been fully drained by August of 1930, but it would take another four years before the first farmers were able to settle there, because that was how long it took to desalinate land that had been reclaimed from sea water. The new Wieringermeer region was designed entirely on the drawing board, and featured three small residential settlements with land plots of twenty hectares that could be rented by farmers.

Still from Wieringermeer (1938), Alex Roosdorp.
Still from Wieringermeer (1938), Alex Roosdorp.
Still from Wieringermeer (1938), Alex Roosdorp.
Still from Wieringermeer (1938), Alex Roosdorp.
Still from Wieringermeer (1938), Alex Roosdorp.
Still from Wieringermeer (1938), Alex Roosdorp.
Still from Wieringermeer (1938), Alex Roosdorp.
Still from Wieringermeer (1938), Alex Roosdorp.

The Roosdorps: filmers of 'old' agriculture

Marofilm had already produced a series of about one-and-a-half-hour-long agricultural documentaries, in each of which a different subject is exhaustively treated: from beekeeping and haymaking to keeping pigs, chickens and horses.
Apart from a detailed picture of the subject, these films also show the pre-war Netherlands - and especially the countryside. It is a country that has not yet been affected by land consolidation and mechanization of the agricultural industry.

New land in 1938

The Wieringermeer was completely different in terms of landscape. When the Roosdorps filmed there in 1938 for the film Wieringermeer, they were given a foretaste of the future, as it were: large fields on which large combine harvesters run, working the land on a larger-than-ever scale. Sometimes the images seem almost un-Dutch, reminiscent of the harvest in the Soviet Union or Canada.

You have to accept cookies to be able to watch this.
Wieringermeer (1938), Alex Roosdorp.

The aftermath of the Second World War

Shortly after the liberation of Deventer on 10 April 1945, Roosdorp began making private recordings of the ravage in and around the city - probably not yet with the aim of making a long film. But his ideas soon changed; in the summer of 1945 he made a comprehensive report of the Netherlands that he found after five years of war and occupation. This film was Herwinnen door werken.

He filmed the destroyed infrastructure, the destroyed cities and the battered countryside. First in the vicinity of Deventer, Zutphen and Wageningen, later the Roosdorps crossed the whole country - by bike. They paid particular attention to the most damaged places: the total destroyed Arnhem, the inundated Walcheren and the Wieringermeer.

The inundation of 1945

The Wieringermeer was in fact badly damaged by the war. On 17 April 1945 German soldiers had blown up the dike of the Wieringermeer in two places. Within two days, the entire polder was flooded a few meters deep. Houses and barns were badly damaged by the sloshing water.
Roosdorp filmed the lost land from a boat - in colour. Slowly he sailed between the houses and across the sunken polder land. The red, brick houses stand out against the blue water and the sun-drenched air.

You have to accept cookies to be able to watch this.
Herwinnen door werken (1946) - Wieringermeer (fragment 1), Alex Roosdorp.
You have to accept cookies to be able to watch this.
Herwinnen door werken (1946) - Wieringermeer (fragment 2), Alex Roosdorp.


Three years later - in the summer of 1948 - the Roosdorps were in the Wieringermeer for the last time, now to film the reconstruction. Whereas the fields of Walcheren would be barren for years after the salt water flood, the Wieringermeer could already be harvested again because since the closure of the Afsluitdijk in 1932 it no longer bordered on the sea, but on the IJsselmeer.
In De Wieringermeer - July 1948, the workers work on rebuilding the destroyed villages and farms and repairing dikes and roads. Between the new building and next to the barns we see the wooden temporary houses with prosaic names such as 'Een huis van hout' en 't Is niet anders'. But life has already taken its course again; the children go to school and the harvest is harvested in the fields.

Three times Wieringermeer

The Wieringermeer is a special region in Roosdorp's work. In a span of ten years he filmed the heroism of the new country, the drama of inundation and the sacrifice of reconstruction, as if it were a biblical parable or a dialectical process. But the films are not only of historical importance, they also mark a film-technical development: the arrival of colour film.

Still from Wieringermeer (1938), Alex Roosdorp.
Still from Wieringermeer (1938), Alex Roosdorp.

Colour for the amateur

In the mid-1930s, the American concern Kodak and the German Agfa launched color stock for the amateur filmmaker. Kodachrome and Agfacolor were available in 8mm and 16mm sizes. As a reversal material, which means that the exposed material is immediately developed into a positive print.

Without negative

With this method, no negative remains. The result of this process, also called 'reversal', was that there was only one original copy - due to the lack of a negative it was not possible to make multiple prints. Roosdorp experimented early on with this colour stock and tried out both the Kodak and Agfa material. During his first Wieringermeer film, he already made a few colour shots, but they did not make it into the final film.

Green haze

However, he soon changed his mind and from 1939 onwards almost all his long documentaries were shot in colour - also Regaining through works. For this film Roosdorp worked with reversal film from Agfa.
Because the Dutch Agfa laboratory had been destroyed, Roosdorp had to move to Agfa-Gevaert in Brussels: it can be seen that a mistake was made in the laboratory with the development: the film has a light-green veil.

Still from Herwinnen door werken (1946), Alex Roosdorp.
Still from Herwinnen door werken (1946), Alex Roosdorp.

The disappeared colour film

Yet only a black and white copy of the last film - Wieringermeer, July 1948 - is known. What's up with that? Because this film too was also shot entirely in colour. Also on reversing material; now Kodak. However, unlike the other two films, this film is not a free production of Marofilm, but a film made on commission. The original, unique colour film is therefore handed over to the client after completion, who is unknown due to the lack of further documentation.

You have to accept cookies to be able to watch this.
De Wieringermeer - juli 1948, Alex Roosdorp.

Preserved in black and white

In order to still have a copy of the film, Roosdorp made a black and white copy of the film for himself. This print is still in the Roosdorp collection, which came into the possession of Eye after the death of Alex Roosdorp.

Less contrast

The somewhat "woolly" image shows that the original material was in colour. In a colour film, the image is made up of three thin layers of emulsion (yellow, purple-red and blue-green) that lie on the cellulose support. When projecting or exposing the film, this will cause the light to be slightly scattered and a slightly out of focus image. This blur is always copied when making black and white prints of the original material.