Having sampled PBS Masterpiece for free through our Prime membership, we’re now paying $6.99/month for continued access to this rich library. Through it we happened upon shows from Walter Presents. According to Wikipedia, Italian TV producer Walter Iuzzolino set three criteria in selecting foreign language dramas and comedies to stream: the show must be popular in its native country, it must be “award-winning or already critically acclaimed”; and it must have “the finest writing, directing and acting that each country has to offer.” So far shows from Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark tick his boxes.
THE ADULTERER (Overspel) ♦♦♦♦♦
The Dutch drama “Overspel” is misleadingly translated as “The Adulterer” rather than ‘adultery’ or the broader interpretation of ‘misconduct’. Early on photographer Iris Hoegaarde and attorney Willem Steenhouwer succumb to their magnetic attraction and begin a passionate affair. But don’t let scenes of steamy sex come to mind. Although their adultery is at its centre, the show explores obsession, greed, dishonesty, jealousy, love and, for added intrigue, murder.
For 17 years Willem has worked solely for Huub Couwenberg, a shady tycoon in the real estate business in Amsterdam. Think of “The Godfather” with his consigliere, as this series belongs to the gangster genre, though not in the beginning, as well as to the legal drama. Further complicating the situation, Willem is married to his boss’s daughter. When a fateful accident occurs, all relationships come under duress; sub-plots unfold around the lovers, their aggrieved spouses, plus other family members. To keep straight the roles of the characters in the imbroglio, episodes feature the technique of montage, with the camera going in for close-ups of each main character, deep in thought. The director also creates suspense through a cutting pattern: no sooner does a question arise in a scene, then the camera cuts to a different one.
The past figures prominently, but we don’t learn its secrets until later. Characters gradually reveal their position on a moral compass — from honourable to wicked. And while few characters appear as villains at the outset, circumstances cause some to behave villainously. We watch, expectantly, to see justice served. Is it? •
P.S. After 32 episodes, my viewing partner and I cared about the characters and were sorry when they left our home. Glen awards an atypical rating of ♦♦♦♦♦ to “The Adulterer.”
P.P.S. Thanks also to Walter Presents, we re-watched a five-star Anglo-German drama, “The Same Sky”, which looks at tactics used by the East German secret police to get intel from the west in 1974.