DANGEROUS IDYLL BETWEEN MAAS AND WAAL, dokumentary, 26 min., WDR/arte, Germany © 2006
Credits: Script and Direction: Claudia Schmid; Camera: Oliver Vogt; Sound: Ute Haverkämper; Editing: Monika Grüter; Speaker: Frau Greve, Herr Müller, Herr Levin. Produced by Bildersturm Filmproduktion in co-production with WDR/arte.
DANGEROUS IDYLL BETWEEN MAAS AND WAAL - THE FILM
"The green heart" – that's what the Dutch call the region of drained marshland bordered by the Waal and Meuse rivers in Holland's interior near Nijmegen. Though located far away from the sea, it's an area that is constantly threatened by flooding. In February 1995 the entire population of the region had to be evacuated when a dike threatened to burst. Water levels in the Waal and Meuse had risen so high that a complete inundation of the area under several metres of water had become a real possibility. Indeed, the idyllic appearance of this marshy landscape with its lush sheep meadows and thatched cottages belies the danger that comes with every heavy rainfall or storm. Here near the town of Appeltern, on the shores of a small lake formed by years of flooding, is where Adri van Ooijen lives with his family.
Filmmaker Claudia Schmid joins Adri on a trip through the region, dropping in on his two brothers Gerald and Pieter along the way. The lives of all three men have been shaped by water in different ways, and all three have learned to deal with it creatively. Adri himself designs and builds houses that can withstand flooding. When the water begins to rise, the house rises with it – up to five metres above the ground. Unlike most other houses in the area, his stand in front of the dike, not behind it. In addition, Adri runs a campground that is completely surrounded by water. His brother Gerald maintains a series of ponds into which he releases thousands of trout and then opens to hobby fishermen – around 30,000 every year. The third brother, Pieter, has built a house on piles that seems to float in the air, a breathtaking example of modern architecture.
Alongside these personal stories, the film also reveals the technical systems that make life in this marsh landscape possible. Viewers are taken to an old pumping station in which steam-driven engines have to be fired up before the water can be pumped out of the flood-endangered areas. We are also shown an impressively high-tech lock system whose ships can be used to equalize differences in water levels.