(Little Crumb)

©Shooting Star Filmcompany BV
©Buena Vista International (Netherlands) BV
photo: courtesy MVSP Publicity/Promotion/Public Relations
(Take the kids for Christmas)

The famous figure of a boy and his dog still brings warmth to the heart of every Hollander. Now, at last, the renowned book by Chris van Abcoude has been filmed and will burst upon the Lowlands' public in time to be included among their holiday festivities.

Kruimeltje (Ruud Feltkamp), a 10-year old boy, is sent onto the streets once again during the ice cold winter of 1921 by his custodian Mrs. Koster (Sacha Bulthuis) to make some money and earn his keep before returning home. Having been left behind by his mother years earlier, the lonely child now passes whatever leisure time he can find with his friend and neighbor Keesie (Yannik van de Velde).

Disappointed and angry because he feels his mother deserted him, Kruimeltje has, throughout the years, created an ideal dream image of his father, although he knows practically nothing about either one of his parents. Mrs. Koster is the only person near him with any knowledge of his past, and her aggressively unfriendly attitude hardly makes her seem a likely prospect of healing the boy's personal wounds.
Kruimeltje's antics repeatedly bring him into contact with both police and authorities. Whether or not he carries the full blame for his crimes, the authorities believe time and again that the responsibility rests solely on his shoulders. One example of how the street urchin is abused is seen when a window repairman (Maarten Wansink) decides to exploit the boy's potential by having him break several windows in order to have an increase in business turnover. The boy's only decent companion seems to be Moor, the homeless mutt, who immediately becomes a close friend once the boy protects him from a group of wicked stone-throwing children.

©Shooting Star Filmcompany BV
©Buena Vista International (Netherlands) BV
photo: courtesy MVSP Publicity/Promotion/Public Relations
Wilkes (Hugo Haenen), a greengrocer by trade, takes an avid interest in the boy as well as his future after Mrs. Koster's death and winds up allowing him to move into his home. Unexpectedly, this friendly man happens to hold the key answers to questions that can reveal the child's past. Will the lonely boy, who longs to meet his father, ever have anything more than a fantasy of parental love to fill his life?

John Kraaykamp Sr., legend of Dutch film and theatre, puts in an appearance as the proprietor of the dog pound. Wonderfully friendly as the man ultimately responsible for putting stray dogs caught on the streets of Rotterdam to sleep, only an actor with his charisma could convincingly make the marriage of this terrible profession with this jovial character believable. There are lots of other familiar Dutch names on the cast list and it is obvious that careful thought has been given to choosing the appropriate actors for each role. Sacha Bulthuis, as the hard- faced custodian with a hidden heart, deserves to be singled out for her strikingly realistic performance. The title role, however, remains the most difficult of all and, although Rick Feltkamp has done a fine job, perhaps the actor's own adorable face has blinded director Maria Peters to certain aspects of Kruimeltje's character which might have been more prominently displayed. It is almost inconceivable that a boy so obviously well bred, with such beautifully white teeth and an even more shining enunciation, could be a child of the streets with a tendency to get himself constantly into serious trouble with the police. He's simply too cute: two smudges on the cheek do not a waif make. The manner in which his prankishness has been portrayed within the confines of the movie allows him to retain such a boyish charm that it (incomprehensibly) excludes all possible hint of wrongdoing, even when he might be preoccupied with pursuing such criminal activities as malicious damage or thievery. There is an almost obstinate and deliberate lack of grueling elements (such as those found in Dickens' novels like Oliver Twist) and, therefore, as a result, this film offers a viewer less possibility of becoming truly acquainted with Kruimeltje's pain or struggle for survival.
Consequently, the sympathetic moments of happiness and joy are, unfortunately, reduced in parallel measure. Nevertheless, it is a charming tale with a human touch and it is a delight for the eye. Christmas always calls for a portion of charity.

Let it not be forgotten (, for those of you who already know,) that this movie is based upon a Dutch classic written by an author born in the last century (, that is, last century at least until a couple of weeks from now). Van Abcoude was born in Rotterdam, worked as a school teacher for 9 years, became a journalist, moved to the United States where he then became a piano accompanist for silent films, a puppeteer, and finally moved on into the field of magazine distribution at a location near his home in Almeda, California. Later in life, he founded a children's theatre company for which he both wrote and directed plays until his death in 1964. His crowning achievement, "Kruimeltje," written in 1922 (partially as a memoir of his hometown Rotterdam), is being released in a special 70th (film) edition simultaneously with the opening of this movie.

Director Peters, one of the three moving forces behind the Shooting Star Filmcompany, has combined a number of accomplished talents to recreate the world of van Abcoude's novel. The range of the spectacle might have been enhanced, however, by the addition of a separate hand for the writing of the scenario. Art director Hemmo Sportel has created the winter wonderland of a fairy tale with the grit and grime of working class life buried within the houses. Costume designer Bernadette Corstens has added intelligently to the atmosphere. DP Hein Groot captures every setting and action to its best advantage. Location managers Wynand Chocolaad and Boudewijn Visser have also done an excellent job by finding locations in Schiedam, Dordrecht, Leiden, Delftshaven, Enkhuizen, and Utrecht that melt together fittingly into the story. They have managed to choose spots that capture a past Dutch environment without any elements that might disturb the concentration of the viewer. Award winning composer Henny Vrienten has turned out a score that fits the tale.

The Christmas presents at the end of the film turn out to be most appropriate gifts. The movie itself is a wonderful gift for the children of Holland.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett