Post image for DVD Review: THE MINIATURIST (PBS)

by Dale Reynolds on April 9, 2019



It’s late 17th century just after the fourth Anglo-Dutch war, and since Britain and the Netherlands are no longer fighting at sea, an 18-year-old Englishwoman, Petronella “Nella” Oortman (Anya Taylor-Joy), is chosen to marry rich sugar-merchant, Johannes Brandt (Alex Hassell), and brought to his home. Also in the household is his sister, Marin (Romola Garai), a cold, withholding woman who reflects Amsterdam’s forbidding religious conservatism. The household has two servants, Otto (Pappa Essiedu), a black man who has sired Marin’s coming child, and Cornelia (Hayley Squires), a lower-class protector of both mistresses. But Johannes has a secret, one that is punishable in this rigid Protestant-dominated society with death-by-drowning. So the plot tensions are in place.

Johannes purchases this enormous dollhouse for Nella, which mirrors their canal-front home in Amsterdam. Slowly, miniatures are left by the front door that reflect the tensions that inhabit and inhibit the day-to-day actions of the characters; it isn’t until the second half that we discover who this young, blond miniaturist is. Played by Emily Berrington, she lives with some form of inner-vision that allows her to create these miniatures (a cradle, a dog, Nella’s look-alike doll, etc.). Creepy and fascinating.

Based on Jessie Burton’s successful novel, John Brownlow’s three-episode script — solidly directed by Guillem Morales — authentically delivers the characters’ psychological underpinning, the growing dangers which take all of them into a Dutch hell, and the period interiors of this repressive era.

It’s a smart film, delicate when needed and brutally taut when demanded, so the three hours move swiftly. Gavin Finney’s cinematography is spot-on in clarity and definition, and Dan Jones’s musical score superlatively sets us up for this thriller.

The Miniaturist
1 disc, 3 episodes | 162 minutes | rated NC-17
released September 18, 2018
available on Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming at PBS and Amazon

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