Friday's Fantastic Screen Gems | Koning van Katoren | To be King
One of the many childhood memories I have is that if I had to stay home sick from school, my mother would always let me choose a book. She didn't like to read herself, but she always encouraged me to read. And although I have often chosen books from "The Five", I had the whole series, I have also chosen other books. One of the other books was a very luxurious book for me. A hardcover book by a well-known Dutch author. The writer was Jan Terlouw, and the book I am talking about is the book "Koning van Katoren".
That book was really a big world full of imagination for me. Originally published in 1971, this book is still selling more than 50 years later. So you can say that many generations are fascinated by this story. The story takes place in the fictional kingdom of Katoren, where a baby boy is born on the night the old king dies. And seventeen years after the death of the old king, it is this little boy, Stach, who takes on the challenge of completing seven assignments to become the new king of Katoren. These seven assignments are given to him by the ministers who have seized power since the death of the old king and are unwilling to relinquish this power again. What follows is a series of thrilling adventures where Stach must use his brain to overcome the obstacles thrown in his path. He forms friendships that help him carry out his missions, and he becomes aware of how a king should serve his people with determination and integrity.
I missed the hidden messages
In the time I read the book I thought it was a great book, but did not think at all about the many messages that were hidden in this book. However, that changed very recently when I was on HBO Max searching for a movie to watch.
The title of the movie as listed on HBO Max under "Local Productions" is:
To be King
This title didn't ring a bell yet. On the contrary. But when I read the description and saw the name Katoren I knew it. I had to see this movie. In the far corners of my memory, fragments of the book floated to the surface, and I just hoped the movie wasn't going to be a disappointment. How could I have even missed the fact that this film had already seen the light of day in 2012?
Director Ben Sombogaart dived into the world of Jan Terlouw's Katoren and then decided to film "Koning van Katoren". The film manages to capture the essence of the book while adding a visual dimension to it. The cinematography is beautiful, with breathtaking landscapes and colorful sets that bring the fictional kingdom of Katoren to life, very un-Dutch, by the way, both my partner and I thought when we were watching. That turned out to be true because the film was largely shot in other countries. You could say that this film took us on a visual journey that stimulated our imagination and immersed us in the story.
The cast of the film does an excellent job of acting, with a special mention for Mingus Dagelet in the role of Stach. He manages to bring the character to life with his determination, charisma and youthful innocence. The role of Kim is well played by Abbey Hoes. In the book, Kim was still the beautiful daughter of one of the Mayors where Stach stayed while solving an assignment. In the film this is somewhat modernized, and Kim is the daughter of one of the ministers, and a journalist who writes pieces about Stach and his assignments. She was hired by the ministers to thwart him. There is a clear chemistry between the Mingus and Abbey which provides an extra dimension to the storyline and also makes the blossoming romance believable.
As always with a film adaptation of a book, the screenplay is not entirely according to the book. Still, the film manages to keep the most important elements of the book, while also making some changes and adjustments to make the story take place in this time, instead of more than 50 years ago. So even without including all the details from the book in the script, the essence of the film remains the same and the important messages from the book are conveyed.
Still relevant and even more urgent than ever before
So we are talking about a book that is more than 50 years old. Released in 1971. The film is based entirely on that and has not changed these messages. You would expect that the messages of the past would not be the messages of today. But make no mistake! The political messages you see in this film are still relevant and even more urgent than ever before. With messages such as corruption among politicians, environmental pollution, climate change and the problems in healthcare, Koning van Katoren perfectly reflects contemporary society.
It's a mirror of reality. The film shows us a society plagued by corrupt politicians, a problem that is unfortunately still relevant today. The characters in the film fight against an established order that abuses power for their own gain. This reflection on reality makes the film extremely relevant and makes you think about the current political situation. Unfortunately, the conclusion is that more than 50 years later nothing has ever changed.
Environmental Pollution and Climate Change
Another major theme the film deals with is environmental pollution and the pressing issue of climate change. In the story, Stach must defeat a dragon in a dark, swampy town. This dragon pollutes the environment and blocks all sunlight. The moment Stach blows up the dragon and the dragon shatters into thousands of small pieces, all these small pieces of dragon threaten to grow into new dragons. Fortunately for him, the air pressure displacement has also blown away the sulfur above the swamp, allowing the sun to break through and shrivel up the thousands of little growing dragons. If only the problem of environmental pollution and climate change could be solved so easily in real life... The film encourages us to think about the actions we can take to turn the tide and create a more sustainable future.
A third important theme in Koning van Katoren is unaffordable healthcare, a problem that poses increasing challenges worldwide. The film asks why some problems are not solved, while simple and affordable solutions seem to be available. In the story, Stach has to solve the problem of the Knockers in a small town. The inhabitants of this town live on a swamp that attracts a certain kind of mosquitoes, if such a mosquito sticks in your nose it swells up, and it stays that way if you don't get there in time. Your nose can also burst open and you die. There are doctors (called Taras) who can fix this, but they are terribly expensive. And their medicine is also unaffordable for many people. Stach knows how to make the medicine yourself very easily.
This aspect of the film is highly relevant given the current debates about healthcare systems around the world. It encourages viewers to think critically about possible solutions and how to put them into practice.
Of course there is more, a small change in the movie compared to the book is that in the book Stach had to perform seven assignments, in the movie this has been reduced to 5 assignments. Despite that and the other minor differences, my conclusion is that Koning van Katoren is a fun film that not only focuses on adventure and imagination, but also highlights the political aspects of our society. The themes of corruption, environmental pollution, climate change and health care make the film particularly relevant in today's political climate.
King of Katoren reminds us that as individuals and as a society we have the power to bring about positive change.
Posted using CineTV