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Film / Kenau

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Kenau is a Dutch movie, released in 2014, that focuses on the historical siege of Haarlem of 1572-1573 by the Spanish army. Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer is the leader of the women that defended the city. She is a widow and owns a shipbuilder supplies company.

The movie starts in 1572, when parts of the Low Countries were already in open revolt against Philip II of Spain. Kenau tries to keep herself and her daughters out of the conflict. Yet, after one of her daughters participates in smashing up a Catholic church and is burned, her feelings against the Spanish occupiers harden.

When the Spanish reach the city of Haarlem, she ends up in the thick of the fighting. From there, she begins to lead a group of women in defending part of the city, using trickery and bravery to withstand the Spanish army.


Kenau provides examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene
  • Action Girl: Lots of the women of Haarlem grow into this by necessity.
  • Action Mom: Kenau
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The women being able to skate. Holland was an even more watery place than it is now and skating was a common skill. There are several paintings by Dutch masters that feature women skating on ice.
  • Amazon Brigade: Though they work together with the men, the women of Haarlem often act on their own as well.
  • Authority in Name Only: The women of Haarlem make their own (highly successful) plans to protect Haarlem, without approval from the city council.
  • Berserk Button: Don Fadrique doesn't take it well when he learns that he's being withstood by a woman.
  • Big Damn Heroes
  • Bilingual Bonus: The Spanish characters speak Spanish amongst each other and French when they communicate with the Dutch. The Bishop of Utrecht uses Latin when condeming Gertruide and her compatriots to die.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bring It
  • The Charmer: It does not take Dominique much time to charm Kathelijne off her feet.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Kenau saves one of her employees at the beginning from drowning. Her being able to swim helps her survive her execution in the end.
  • Defiant to the End: Kenau. Bound and with her city overrun, she still challenges the Spanish commander.
  • The Dog Bites Back: When regent Duyff is trying to flee after betraying the city, his wife repays him by exposing his treason because he had earlier given her to a Spanish commander to "use", clearly without her consent.
  • Domestic Abuse: It is likely that Teun is this. After dying, his widow Bertha comes into her own as one of Haarlem's defenders.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When one of her employees falls into the water, Kenau jumps into it and saves him.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Ripperda
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Averted. Gertruide and Kathelijne clearly care for each other a lot. When Gertruide is burned, Kathelijne shoots her only to spare her death by fire.
  • Glory Days: Though Haarlem gets overrun finally, it is stated in the end that its staunch defense helped keep Alkmaar free, which is where victory started for the Dutch.
  • The Heretic: What a lot of Dutch people are, according to the Spanish. The persecution of Protestants is the main reason the Low Countries rose in revolt against Spain.
  • Historical Domain Character: Kenau, Ripperda, Don Fadrique and the Duke of Alva.
  • Honey Trap: Magdalena goes to the Spanish camp to offer herself to Don Frederique, who she knew fancied her as he had already slept with her before thanks to her unscrupulous husband, to become a spy for the local defenders.
  • Kick the Dog: Duyff being a horrible human being is established when he leaves his young wife with the Spanish commander, clearly offering her for sex.
  • Last Stand
  • Mercy Kill: Kathelijne rather shoots her sister than let her perish in the flames.
  • The Mistress: Alda
  • Parental Favoritism: It seems Kathelijne is hinting at this during one of her arguments with Kenau.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Mostly averted. Kenau is only rich when contrasting her with most other people in her city. She gives her best dress to Magdalena, to help her seduce Don Fadrique.
  • Refusal of the Call: Kenau, because she wants to protect her daughters and company.
  • Rousing Speech: Kenau gives one, persuading the other women to stay and defend Haarlem until the end.
  • Show Some Leg: Several of the women of Haarlem completely undress and dance on the city walls to distract the enemy.
  • The Siege
  • Took a Level in Badass: Many of the people in Haarlem, but Bertha and Magdalena specifically. Downplayed with Kenau mostly, as she was already pretty badass before Haarlem was attacked. The only sign of it with her is that she is shocked for a second or two after making her first kill by stabbing a man in the eye.
  • Undying Loyalty: Most of the people of Haarlem to their city and the cause of liberation from the Spanish.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer was a real person who lived during the Siege of Haarlem and participated in its defense against the Spanish forces by tirelessly working to strenghten the defensive lines. In the seventeenth century she was seen as a hero and several paintings were made of her carrying weapons. In the more prudish nineteenth century, however, perception changed and it was no longer considered possible that a woman fought on the front lines. Now, historici say it is unclear whether or not she actively fought.
  • War Is Hell
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Don Fadrique, the commander of the Spanish forces besieging Haarlem, visibly turns into a little boy when his father General Alba makes an unexpected visit to berate him for failing to subdue the city.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Gertruide happily joins the iconoclasm in Haarlem's church, seeing it as a great adventure. She realizes how out of her depth she was when she gets captured and condemned to be burned at the stake.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Kathelijne and Dominique


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