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Film / Michiel de Ruyter

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Michiel de Ruyter is a 2015 Dutch 2015 historical film about the most famous Admiral in Dutch history. The movie is set in the seventeenth century and opens with a sea battle during the First Anglo-Dutch war. Admiral Tromp dies, and the new Grand Pensionary of Holland, Johan de Witt (Barry Atsma), offers Michiel (Frank Lammers) the post of Admiral.

Reluctant to leave his family, he finally agrees when the English humiliate the Dutch fleet. De Ruyter’s strategic brilliance bring him victory and respect.

After sailing up the Medway, the Dutch fleet burns and takes several English ships, so the English King Charles II agrees to make peace.

Tensions mount in the Republic between those who want the Prince of Orange to have more power and the Republicans. This especially because fear for a French attack becomes eminent.

Charles of England secretly signs a treaty with the French, and Michiel de Ruyter will have to do his utmost to protect the Netherlands from a combined attack by France, England and two German principalities.

Michiel de Ruyter provides examples of:

  • Abandon Ship: The French admiral gives the order after his ships run aground in shallow waters attempting to race past De Ruyter's fleet to land troops ashore.
  • Agent Peacock: It is hinted quite strongly that the Prince of Orange is gay and is intimate with William Bentinck. He also likes ballet. Despite some early nervousness and his English connections, he stays loyal to the Republic and keeps his head cool during the disaster year of 1672 when taking over command. It is mentioned in the end credits that he would invade England and become king there.
  • All Issues Are Political Issues: Tromp talked about this in his dying moments. Michiel finds out how true this is during the course of the film.
  • Always Second Best: Cornelis Tromp. He doesn't take it well at first, but later realizes De Ruyter's brilliance outmatches his own.
    • Cornelius Tromp is one of the better Admirals the Dutch had back then. He just doesn't realize that de Ruyter is a better Admiral.
  • Antagonist in Mourning: The Prince of Orange at Michiel's funeral in the end, especially considering that De Ruyter's willingness to be sacrificed by the Prince united the Dutch people in a way that the Prince feels he would never be able to by himself.
  • Backstab Backfire: The English had made a secret alliance with the French, while still being officially allied to the Dutch. It does not end well for them.
  • Badass Army: The Dutch navy is the protoganist navy in this movie, but the English navy was pretty badass as well.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Cornelis de Witt is amicable and has gout, but has no problem physically attacking the enemy during a sea battle.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: William of Orange is a bit of a dandy, and comes across as rather meek when dealing with some of the older nobles. That said, he is the one who orders de Ruyter and Tromp to get along with each other, he floods his own countryside to deal with French invaders, he loses his temper and shouts down King Charles II in his own court, and sends de Ruyter on a Suicide Mission to eliminate him as a threat to his power. Oh, and from a historical note, he ends up deposing King James II and taking over England after the events of the movie.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The English speak English and the French speak French. The Prince of Orange speaks good English, though with a Dutch accent.
  • Biopic: The film recounts the life of Michiel de Ruyter from the battle of Scheveningen (1653) to his death (1676).
  • Call-Forward: Charles II's derisive remark about why Henry VIII turned Protestant seems weird for the Protestant King of a Protestant country, until one knows that Charles II would convert to Catholicism on his deathbed.
  • The Cameo: Rutger Hauer as Maarten Tromp.
  • Character Title: Michiel De Ruyter, although in Anglophone countries it had the Market-Based Title of The Admiral.
  • Civil War: Both the Orangists and the Republicans spend the entire movie trying to avert one while still trying to secure power for themselves.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Cornellis de Witt is subjected to this, as the Orangists attempt to force a confession to him regarding a supposed plot on the Prince's life.
  • Cool Ship: The Seven Provinces, designed to be powerfully armed, agile, and of shallow draught.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: How the brothers De Witt are torn apart.
  • Culture Clash:
    • An interesting case as it is usually the English that appear to be more down to earth in historical movies, when compared to French or Spanish enemies. In this case they play the more frivolous part compared to the Dutch.
    • Though not made a point of, this also caused issues between the French and English when they combined their fleets to attack the Netherlands, as many English saw the Catholic French as the real enemy.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Prince William has moments. "Excuse me, I have a country to flood."
  • Despair Event Horizon: 1672 is known as the Disaster Year in the Netherlands for a reason.
  • Dramatic Irony: Many examples, this film being based on historic events, but standing out in particular is the dismissive way Charles II treats his nephew, William of Orange, considering that William would later rule England after overthrowing Charles's brother and successor to the throne, James II. What makes it more ironic is that Charles later reportedly warned William to get ready to take action after he had died. Though Charles supported the openly Catholic Janes II succeeding, Charles correctly predicted he wouldn't last more than three years.
  • The Drunken Sailor: Averted, though Anna mentions how glad she is she ordered a barrel of beer just before Michiel returns home.
  • End of an Age: This trope is invoked by name at the funeral of Michiel de Ruyter, as one of the aristocrats mentions his death heralds the end of an age. See Real Life - Early Modern for more information.
  • Enemy Mine: Charles II seeking an alliance with the French King.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Michiel de Ruyter doing anything to save Admiral Tromp from an impossible position.
  • Family Business: The brothers De Witts and their father were all politically active republicans.
  • Four-Star Badass: De Ruyter's expertice as Admiral helps the Dutch win several naval battles against the English until the latter are forced to sign a peace treaty.
  • French Jerk: Though they were very much thought of in this way, the French officers and sailors are not portrayed as overly villainous. The French land army shooting civilians, on the other hand, plays this straight of course. The Prince of Orange took this trope seriously and made it his lifelong goal to drive back Louis XIV's power.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Michiel de Ruyter started off as a sailor, but climbed through the ranks because of his exceptional skill and strategic insight. The English Admiral in the movie had to ask his name, but he would soon make his enemies remember it.
    • This even applies within Dutch politics. de Ruyter, despite having no intentions to divide his country by threatening the Prince's power, his very war hero status (and the Republican leanings of the Dutch Navy) make him a massive threat to the Oranges and Prince William, regardless of his intents.
  • Glory Days: Though the internal bickering might suggest otherwise, this was very much the Golden Age of the Netherlands. Seen clearly in Johan de Witt's speech and De Ruyter's heroics.
  • Good with Numbers: Johan de Witt was not just a politician, but also a very gifted mathematician.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: De Ruyter meets his end on a likely suicide mission under William's orders, knowing full well the King considers him a threat to his power. The end result is that both the Orangists and Republicans rally behind his death in battle to get past their differences with each other.
  • Historical Domain Character: Admiral de Ruyter, the de Witt brothers, William of Orange, Charles II of England, anybody of note, really.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: The attack on the English ships at Chatham was done in this way.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Strong with William of Orange in particular.
  • Idiot Ball: Though highly intelligent, Johan de Witt does not believe rumours of a French army assembling to attack the Netherlands, despite warnings from both his brother and friend.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: While his closest supporters seem happy with the French attacking the southern Netherlands, the Prince of Orange correctly understands that England will also attack the North. He stomps off in frustration.
  • In the Blood: Cornelis Tromp tries to invoke this, to justify him becoming Admiral of the Dutch fleet.
  • Jumped at the Call: Cornelis Tromp tries to do this, when it comes to taking charge of the fleet. Johan de Witt prefers De Ruyter as admiral, though.
  • Kissing Cousins: As noted in the end, William of Orange would marry his cousin Mary Stuart and invade England.
  • Man Hug: Several after the Royal Charles is captured.
  • The Mistress: Charles II has quite a few. One of the more significant is a French mistress sent by Louis XIV who thanks Charles on behalf of her king for his support in the war.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The French mistress of Charles II. Though not named, it is probably Louise de Kérouaille.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Admiral Obdam's one scene is one big Oh Crap.
    • Johan de Witt's face too when he realizes he has to make Obdam admiral.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Averted mostly, since the Dutch tended to wear sober clothing despite their wealth. Played straight with Wendela Bicker, wife of Johan de Witt.
  • Proud Merchant Race: The Dutch. Johan de Witt lampshades this when addressing representatives of the Orangists and Republicans after being made Prime Minister.
  • Reaction Shot: After his Admiral is killed at the Battle of Ter Heijde, the camera zooms in on Michiel de Ruyter.
  • Real Men Hate Affection: Averted. Michiel and Johan de Witt are both very affectionate to their families.
  • Refusal of the Call: Michiel de Ruyter finds every excuse not to accept the position of Admiral for the navy, and is only convinced after Admiral Obdam's defeat.
  • The Republic: The Dutch Republic, which was an anomalie amongst all the monarchies in Europe.
  • Rousing Speech: Johan de Witt's speech in the beginning. He even gets his enemies to stand up and applaud.
  • Royal Blood: Charles II invokes this to the Prince of Orange, who is also his nephew, offering to make him King of Holland. The Prince rejects this and tells him the Dutch Republic is there to stay, presumably more out of practical reasons for not wanting to become an English protectorate.
  • Royal Brat: What the Republicans call the Prince of Orange. Averted, since the Prince of Orange is genuinely loyal to the Dutch Republic. He acts out of self interest at times, but not pettiness.
  • Royally Screwed Up: The Prince of Orange complains that even the inbred Habsburgers still have power, while he does not have an official function in the Netherlands.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Prince of Orange is the closest the Netherlands has to Royalty. Despite being known for liking ballet and being very young, he ably takes over command of the Republic's land defences during the Disaster Year of 1672.
  • Rule of Drama: Some of the artistic license seems to be because of this. For example, De Ruyter just up and abandons the fleet for a (failed) attempt to rescue the De Wit brothers from an Orangist lynch mob. He's not recorded as having been anywhere near the event when it happened.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The swan on a painting symbolises Johan de Witt, which it really did on the actual painting (now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam). The eating of a swan at a party therefore symbolises the future downfall of the De Witts.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Johan de Witt did not strengthen the land army, because he was afraid this would give more support for the Prince of Orange. He also does not believe the French are mobilizing to attack the Netherlands, though this might be something he tells himself to justify this. It turns out the French were preparing an enormous army and the de Witts get blamed for this.
  • Standard Royal Court: Though Charles II is shown to have mistresses, the court is not deadly. He yells at his failing admiral, but does not execute him or anything like that.
  • Scenery Porn: And how. The ships look gorgeous.
  • Shaming the Mob: An Orangist mob attacks De Ruyter's house while he is fighting at sea. His wife manages to shame the mob to protect the house and her children.
  • Shout-Out: There are several shoutouts to famous Dutch paintings from the seventeenth century.
  • The Stoic: The English admiral, in his first engagement with de Ruyter, is enjoying a drink when his flagship receives their first broadside from the Dutch ships. Despite being showered with splinters, he continues to calmly enjoy his drink before giving the order to return fire.
  • Torches and Pitchforks:
    • An Orangist mob attacks De Ruyter's house while he is fighting at sea. His wife manages to shame the mob.
    • An Orangist mob attacks the De Witt brothers. They murder and dismember them.
  • Undying Loyalty: Michiel de Ruyter to the fatherland. Same goes for William of Orange, who indignantly refuses his uncle's offer to make him king of the Netherlands at the cost of their independence.
  • Uriah Gambit: De Ruyter's fame makes him a threat for the Prince of Orange, so the prince sends De Ruyter off on a suicide mission in the Mediterranean Sea. As planned, De Ruyter dies.
  • With a Friend and a Stranger: Johan and Cornelis de Witt (the de Witt brothers) and Michiel de Ruyter work very well together, and impliment several strategies and new inventions that lead to Dutch victories.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: This is a biopic about one of the most famous admirals of this period. Several naval battles are reconstructed: the Battle of Scheveningen (1653), the Four Days' Battle (1666), the Raid on the Medway (1667), the Battle of Texel (1673), the battle of Augusta (1676)...
  • Worthy Opponent: The English admiral and the French admiral both take this view of de Ruyter in turn. The English admiral even warns the French admiral against underestimating de Ruyter. After de Ruyter is killed in a one-sided battle vs the French, the French admiral orders his men to render a salute in his honor.