Synopsis by Eleanor Mannikka
Set in the Netherlands between 1856 and 1888, this story centers on the gradual coming-of-age of Hedwig (Renée Soutendijk), the daughter of a wealthy family who has been "protected" from ever knowing about sex, a forbidden topic. At 16, Hewig marries a man who cannot stand the idea of sex, seeing all aspects related to it as sinful and demeaning. Given the fact that Helwig is as sensual as most young women her age, she eventually meets an accomplished, attractive pianist and falls in love -- leaving her sterile life with her inflexible husband and taking on a new life as the mistress of the pianist. Soon she is pregnant, and while the pianist is away on a concert tour, she has their child. Her happiness is short-lived because the little baby becomes ill and dies. At this point, Hedwig is living in Paris and the death of her child robs her of the stability she had known until now, and she ends up in a hospital for treatment of her mental and emotional collapse. Although cured of her emotional breakdown, she comes out of the hospital addicted to heroin -- a habit she is forced to sustain through prostitution. Finally, she is able to end the addiction with the help of a nun, and then she returns to the Netherlands to start looking for a new beginning. Based on a Frederik van Eeden novel that was published in 1900 and was far-sighted for its time, attacking the repressive behavior of the religiously "upright," this film still sees Hedwig as morally flawed, her lover as another "free-living" artist, and farmers as somewhat backward.
coming-of-age, criminal, daughter, death, love, mental-illness, mistress, nun, pianist, pregnancy, sex