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Film / Nova Zembla

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Nova Zembla (Dutch for Novaya Zemlya, a large, largely uinhabitated land mass north of Russia, and the main setting of the film), is a historical Dutch Biopic film from 2011, as well as the first Dutch 3D film. It is a Biopic of Willem Barentsz, a Dutch explorer, who on three journeys in 1594, 1595, and 1596/97, explored the modern Barents Sea north of Norway and western Russia, in search of the Northeast Passage to China. The story centers on Gerrit de Veer, a young writer and Naïve Newcomer, being assigned to keep the ships log during the third journey, which he volunteers to with the motivation of proving himself to his love, Catherina, who is the daughter of Petrus Plancius, a cartographer who is also the main funder of the expedition. However, at Novaya Zemlya, the ship gets stuck in the ice, and the crew is forced to winter, and naturally, Tragedy Ensues.


Tropes found in Nova Zembla:

  • Artistic License – History: While the movie got the main details of the third journey right, the ship getting stuck in the ice, the construction of Het Behouden Huys, the death of a carpenter during the construction, and the death of five crewmembers in total, including a young cabin boy and Barentsz, as well as the journey to Russia in open boats, several facts were changed for dramatic purposes. First of all, de Veer was not a Naïve Newcomer, he had experience from Barentsz' second journey, the character of Catherina and her relationship with de Veer is entirely fictional. The dramatic subplot with Vos turning insane, and the character of Claes is also completely fictitious.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Polar bears start harassing the crew almost immediately on their arrival at Novaya Zemlya, and one of the five people dying are even eaten by one. On Christmas Eve, no less! Surprisingly, apart from the one death, this aspect was arguably downplayed compared to the real journey, where they encountered dozens of polar bears, though no one was killed by them on the third journey, in this movie, only three appears. One first arrives, but is scared off by the crew, another one kills a crewmember out alone, a third breaks into the house through the chimney, but is killed before making more trouble.
  • Evil Is Petty: Near the ending, Vos tears apart the journal de Veer has written, and steals the money Barentsz wanted to save for his family, just to spite de Veer.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: Downplayed by de Veer. He is shown doing some pretty Badass stuff here, like jumping under the ship to save Claes, helping in fighting off the bears, and defeating Vos, but in the diary, it is clear that he was no slouch in Real Life either, outrunning polar bears on several occasion, and at one point fighting of three of them with a halberd.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: There was a crewmember on Barentsz' journey called Pieter Pieterszoon Vos, but absolutely nothing about him is known apart from that, and the subplot of him turning insane is entirely fictitious.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: The bears, to some extent. In its first scene, it is only seen at the distance dark and gloomy, in the death scene, only a head is shown, and the same goes for the last appearances of them. This is likely due to their bear dummies not being convincing enough, and the scenes where they appeared alongside humans could not be filmed with real bears. For obvious reasons.
  • Kick the Dog: Vos does this with some frequency. He shoots birds very nearly to Jantjen, just after ordering him up there, and causing him to fall from the cliff, later pulls a knife on De Veer threatening him to tell what Heemskerck and Barentsz are up to, and repeatedly berates that De Veer is even on the ship.
  • Morality Pet: Claes adopts a small bird on Bird Island, and it later saves their lives form the carbon sulfide poisoning at Novaya Zemlya.
  • Save the Villain: After defeating him, de Veer desperately tries to pull Vos to safety, but is unable to prevent his Disney Villain Death.
  • Those Two Guys: Somewhat accidentally, Heemskerck and Barentsz comes of as this. They are constantly arguing, but are obviously friendly and supportive of one another, and also resemble each other a lot.

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