De brief voor de koning (2008) Poster

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Too truthful to the book
Joejoesan18 July 2008
Not long ago De Brief voor de koning - A letter for the King - was voted most popular Dutch children's book ever. The story of Tonke Dragt's book takes place in the Middle Ages. Young Tiuri is to become a knight, but as a last task he must stay the night in a church chapel with three other pupils. They must not talk. They must not leave. They must not listen to anybody. Late at night a voice is heard from behind the door. A cry for help! Tiuri is the only one who dares opening the door. Knowing he will not be knighted the morning after, he still goes out and helps this stranger. He must bring a secret letter to the king from a foreign country. But is he up to the task?

The movie De Brief voor de koning stays true to the book and that turns out to be a bad choice. Things that worked fine in the book suddenly seem not enough to turn it into an exciting movie. As a film the story could have used more tension and perhaps more action. I loved the book. But seeing it as a film... As a sort of road movie most of the scenery looked the same. The locations were beautiful though, but the tone of most scenes was rather dark. Only at the end there were scenes filmed in daylight.

But the main flaw of this movie is the casting. Yannick van de Velde (who did very well in In Oranje) is a rather colourless hero. He isn't helped by the dialogue either. It uses polite Medieval sentences which makes it even harder for the audience to live along with his triumphs and disappointments and deprives it from any emotion. To make an audience believe that a young inexperienced boy can complete a dangerous task like Tiuri does, you'd expect the hero to have something extra. But Tiuri isn't extremely smart, strong or charming. He can fight, okay. But he should at least have a dark side - to ignore the rules to win after all when he's outnumbered. How far would he go to complete his task?

His sidekick is Piak, played by Quinten Schram. He's a young actor known from his two Pietje Bell movies. Quinten doesn't have as much screen time as Yannick, but somehow his relationship with Tiuri never comes off the ground. There's hardly a spark between these two and that's a real shame. His haircut looks rather silly.

Being a fan of the book for so many years I've always imagined that Hollywood would take up this story. The way it was done now - with a small Dutch budget - is courageous. But it does not do justice to the quality of the book. Brief voor de Koning is a nice attempt to turn one of the most popular Dutch children's books into a movie. But unlike a similar project like Kruistocht in Spijkerbroek (Crusade in Jeans) - in which the director had the courage to make some remarkable changes in the story to make a good movie translation - this one is a small disappointment. I say small, because it isn't a bad movie and maybe the fact that I'm a big fan of the book is in the way of a truly objective movie judgement. In Holland it turned out to be a huge hit at the box office.

6,5 out of 10
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Kirpianuscus19 August 2017
I do not know the book. so, the opinion about a good or bad adaptation is missing. but , it is obvious than "The letter for the king" is a nice children film. not surprising . each expected ingredient is present. the sacrifice for noble cause, the adventure, the young hero discovering himself, the friendship, the danger, the important mission and, sure, the aura of return . so, a seductive film.
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Hasty and poor
martien-jolanda5 August 2008
Mechanical translation from book to celluloid. No heart, no passion. An attempt to quickly earn as much money based on the popularity of the (audio)book. Wrong persons casted for the medieval roles. Love story of 2 scenes and 2 minutes. Friendship in 3 scenes and 3 minutes. Nevertheless - when the endless dragging thru the woods is finished - some beautiful castle pictures. Dark knights with white shields, grey knights with red shields: a film can do better than that. Director and producer should be a bit ashamed to have this film on his record. See "Kruistocht in spijkerbroek" for a much better NL book to film exercise.
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OK entry into the medieval fantasy genre
Andy-29628 January 2015
Aimed squarely at a children and young teenage audience, this film from the Netherlands is a reasonable entry into the medieval fantasy genre. A lot of the negative reviews here come from people comparing it to the popular children's book upon which is based, but not having read the book I can say this worked on me on its own. Working with a relatively small budget, it tells the story of young Tiuri (Yannick Van de Velde), who is to become a knight. As a last task he must stay the night in a church chapel with three other pupils, without talking, leaving or listening to anybody. But at night a cry for help is heard from behind the door, and a dying stranger tells Tiuri he must bring a secret letter to the king of a foreign country…So the adventure begins. There are some nice outdoor mountain locations, not filmed in flat Netherlands obviously, but in Scotland, France and Germany.
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Hasted garbage
c-i-z-ler19 July 2008
This movie is dreadful. I really can not understand why the director is being praised for what he created here.

Every scene seems to be rushed, as if there wasn't enough film in the camera. Like when Piak throws Tiuri his sword. Piak doesn't throw it further than a few feet yet when the camera changes its angle, all of a sudden the sword flies another 8 feet. Is it such a bother to just throw that sword a few times more often?

And then there are the actors, almost all of them the best Holland has to offer and a few of Germany's great. How come none of these fine actors seem to shine in their parts? Isn't it a big part of the directors work to ensure they do their best?

Then there are parts of the book that are altered for no good reason. Why doesn't this film start with Tiuri in the chapel? That would have been a great introduction for the main character. A dim lit chapel, and then the knock on the door and the cry for help. It is easy to convey a bit a drama to that, but it doesn't happen. Vokia is also wounded, no idea why, he wasn't in the book. And it doesn't quite fit either.

There are parts that I liked in this movie. The shots of the landscape through which Tiuri goes are pretty good. The actor that plays Jaro does a good job. And when Tiuri meets the lord of the toll I got an emotional response from this performance, even though it doesn't really make sense in light of the book.

All in all, I just think it is too bad they didn't put some more effort into this. It could have been something if the makers would have just spend some more time in preparing dramatic effect, storyboard and a decent script.

I sincerely hope they don't ruin another great book by Tonke Dragt.

A disappointed fan.
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When terrible is in need of even worse...
mdaf_210 January 2009
After hearing Tonke Dragt's "brief voor de koning" was about to be filmed I really was looking forward to it. "Kruistocht in spuikerbroek" showed a dutch filmmaker can do really well. So when I saw the trailer and read about it, I hasted myself towards the cinema, assuming this would be a great two hours movie.

In the beginning all was fine, nice locations, beautiful costumes, all looked like it could be part of the book. But then, after ten minutes or so, the audio became very irritating with horrible lip syncing. It looked like afterwards in the audio recording studio the director forgot to show the movie and actors had to read their lines straight from paper … at once, without retries or any rehearsal. And why didn't any one bother to think about distance?? On film the actors turn their head, walk away, stand one meter from the camera or ten, but the volume is always the same.

I guess I could get used to this, wasn't it for the horrible stage acting pronunciation. I mean, if an actor is on stage he should speak as clear as possible. But hey, this is cinema, the audio comes from several speakers, speak naturally, do not overdo it! Then there's the acting, how many shots did it take to make this movie, only one? Was half of all shooting days wasted on rehearsals? With every single scene I was under the impression the director shouted "Great, well done! Next one!" You can sometimes even see main characters without lines looking around like "what am I doing here, or hey, what kind of lens is that cameraman using?" And then the locations, though well chosen, did anyone really bother to recheck them before filming?? Why are electricity cables running on walls in a medieval setting? And was it so hard to cover up twenty century electricity boxes?? After this, I think it was twenty minutes into the movie, everything became very annoying. The night shots taken at day time with dark filters, but with the sunny shadows so clearly visible. The rare good acting of even fewer actors became bad, rapped by bad voice recording.

And then, halfway through the movie I became angry, very angry, this was not a movie made to do just to the book or to entertain the audience. It was made so uninspired famous actors had a job and a film crew without any talent could make a full movie.

Was it all bad then? No, the choice of many locations was great, even some actors really tried hard and costume design was great, but what remained was this horrible feeling I completely wasted my time, money and even worse, my good mood. So I left the cinema with an very angry feeling. This movie was an insult, a blasphemy of what good cinema is all about. Besides very few efforts it all looked like the makers wanted to make a very, very quick buck.

But hey, this is my opinion. I still would say, go see for yourself. But please, rent it, or much better, try to lend it from friends or family or any one who was drunk enough to buy this one, because in all honesty, the idea the creators of this flick receive any more money makes me sick: they should be in the TV business, not the film industry.
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High hopes, but very disappointing
zazboy20 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
As a very big fan of the book. Both books actually (Geheimen van het Wilde Woud is even better), I was disappointed. One of the reason I didn't like the movie very much is because it was made for children.

You don't see any blood., it is too simple. The scenes are too short and the dialogs are not that appealing to me and convincing. Some of the characters are casted very well ( the Germans) but the dutch actors didn't do it for me. There isn't an interaction between the characters. They didn't pay attention to detail. And the movie was short.

The movie and the scenes are way too short. Mainly because it is a movie for children. You know how much this ruined the movie for me? There should have been a more dark vibe around the movie. I missed that. And the fighting wasn't that good either. And the way the Red Knights are dressed and the way their shields were. It is not like in the books. And it can't be that hard to made? Almost all the reason I gave that disappointed me, were because it was a dutch movie and because it was a children's movie. That is what ruined it for me because I had high hopes.

I know making a movie out of a book is hard, but it can be done and there are good examples like some of the guys here mentioned ( Crusade in Jeans).

Too bad, hopefully the second part ( Geheimen van het Wilde Woud) will be better.
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Nice movie
johnfromthemountain1 March 2009
An entertaining movie. I even want to go so far to say it's a "must see". The actors speak like they are in a movie that's taking place in the present time, but that,s something you forget soon. The movie keeps me interested. Like in the book, the surroundings en clothing are perfect. Famous actors in the Netherlands are almost unrecognizable, so the grime(make-up) is good also. Furthermore I want to say that the previous comment is a bit far-fetched. If you look hard in any movie you find some problems en bloopers. With the knowledge of his comment i saw this movie again and stay to my opinion as mentioned above. The book is very old. It's written in the sixties. The movie however can compete with every other.
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Nice movie - spoilers
gwynyth-liss-travis31 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Having read the book as a kid, I was really looking forward to seeing this movie, and because I couldn't watch it immediately, my anticipations were only rising.

Checking the list of actors in here, I stumbled upon some bad reactions this movie didn't entirely deserved in my eyes.

First of all, this is a film of a children's book, you can't expect all blood and gore. Second of all, like mentioned in one of the reviews above, it's a 2hour movie! You can't expect the characters to get a hold on you the very same way they did in the book you were reading.

This movie was more true to the book than Crusade in Jeans (which I really didn't like because they've modernized it so much, that they deleted a main character for the sake of having a leading woman for the leading man), from beginning to end. There was no need to make Piak a girl, or for a deep romance between him and the other knights daughter... This is a book of adventure, go watch romance if you want romance. This was about bravery, not giving up, and dangers among the way.

The landscapes, castles and costumes were great, the choice of actors was a bit less good: some actors looked like they loved to be there, just because now they'd be more famous. But others were really well cast and they all looked the part. The reason why I checked this site in the first place, was because I recognized a lot of voices, but not the faces. Congrats to the grime indeed! Things I didn't really like, but I understand why they did is, is the intro: I wanted the movie to start, and instead I got a history lesson! But then I knew the story already. Other movies start like this, like The Golden Compass, and I disliked it all the same. But I can understand people would probably appreciate to know a bit of the setting where the story would be, before it started.

The movie rushed a bit at times, for no apparent reason except maybe to save time and keep as much from the book as possible. So yeah, maybe I felt rushed from one scene into the next at times, but it followed the book, so I wasn't too unhappy about it. What I was a bit unhappy about, was a scene in the beginning, where Knight Edwinen's helper just sends him out, without giving him the password that I so loved from the first time I read it (and memorized ;) ), and the scene at the end, where the King doesn't shake his head in disbelieve because he can't understand a word of Tiuri's gibberish, and Tiuri tells him he also memorized the spelling, in case his pronunciation was wrong. So OK, it would have made the movie a bit longer, I know, but for me, I wanted those 2 scenes in there as well.

So I'm giving it a 7 out of 10: my childhood memories are mainly in the movie, great costumes, settings, scenes, some great actors and fantastic grime, this movie was everything my memory told me and so it stayed in tact. But the rushing through scenes, the sometimes bad acting and the lacking of the 2 scenes I really wanted to see, made it a 7.
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Poor in everything
lossowitz12 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
When filming a book, one has the possibility to correct the flaws of the story to make it fit the two hours attention span that the audience needs to have. Reading a book for two weeks, immersing yourself in another world, is a different feeling than watching a story unfold in front of your eyes.

Sadly no one bothered with this book to make it into a believable script. First of all there is a never ending list of invented names: kings, kingdoms, cities, knights, princes... After the first minute you don't know where you are, whom you're watching and even in which country you are. Confusion is created. That goes on with the next scene in which the aspiring knight Tiuri just has to sit quiet in a chapel for one night. Not an impossible task. But with the first knock on the door and a voice whispering for help, he opens it and has failed the test. No internal struggle, no struggle with the other aspiring knights, just plain stupid behaviour.

And after this unbelievable act, there follow many. If the main character, which of course needs to be the one with whom the audience identifies itself, takes these kind of inexplicable decisions, he never gets any compassion. And he is not the only one with strange behaviour. The scoundrels who rob him, let him choose between a ring an a horse, and set him free after he has made his choice! Then there are the characterizations. No character gets any depth. No one is tormented by doubt. Every thought is said out loud. The "writer" helps Tiuri "because strange things are happening in the country". Even the red knight that decides not to kill Tiuri after he has saved him from falling of the cliff, tells him as if it is a material issue instead of a moral one: "Now I cannot kill you anymore." (-Why, is his sword stolen? -No, it's something moral but I'm not sure what it is.) The friendship that can evolve between characters who need each other is missed here completely. Tiuri and Piak, his, yes, what? Helper? He never helps him. His companion? They never share anything. They just ride next to one another through the endless woods.

The letter in the end turns out to be nothing that couldn't have been told to the king via other ways. The way that the treason is stated by the king: "He wanted to murder him!" is plain painful. We are watching a movie for eight year olds! (And even they might be bored.) To cast not really beautiful people is not a crime, as long as they either can act well or have a devastating charisma. The role of Tiuri, a boy we have to watch almost the full two hours, is played by the not so handsome Yannick van de Velde and he neither can act very well nor has any charisma of sorts. He is like a spoilt, artistic kid from Amsterdam, complete with pretentious brawl. His hair is strangely yellow although the whole film the evil people are looking for a boy "with brown hair".

The rest of the casting is made up of TV-actors, never taking the time to deliver the lines, being used to the "just say them"-regime. With a good script you can get away with that. With this crappy writing you can not. (Only exceptions are Jeroen Willems as the Lord of the Toll and the first Broeder Martijn.) To take this script, these actors and head for eastern Europe with all the medieval rental costumes of Holland ("voor al uw feesten en partijen"- no costume seems to be made especially for this movie) plus the ugliest wigs ever made borders on hubris. Let's hope this director, these producers get punished for that.
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Bloodless and boring
facebook-383-42225721 April 2017
The original Tonke Dragt children's book was one of my favorites as a child. Having recently read the book to my own children, I discovered that it hasn't quite stood the test of time: slow, sometimes contrived, with stilted dialogue and sexist tendencies to make Tolkien proud. How fortunate, then, that a movie was made; what an excellent opportunity to reinvent the story while still staying true to the source material, like Peter Jackson did with Lord of the Rings.

No such luck.

Brief voor de Koning as a film is rooted firmly in the Dutch tradition of shameless mediocrity. The screenplay includes most crucial scenes from the book, but presents them in a bloodless, uninspired sequence, completely draining what little tension the original story carried. The acting is community theater level and worse, the entire cast delivering badly written lines with wooden expressions and clumsy body language. Direction, production, and even camera work and lighting were so bad I began to notice them.

Dutch film critics and moviegoers alike have a tendency to embrace Dutch products and grant them an extra star (on a five-star scale) or two for effort and out of misplaced chauvinism. This is the only explanation I can think of for the 5.8 on IMDb. Even the four I gave this atrocity feels too high.

My kids loved it, though.
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Very disappointing take on an excellent story
karelchevalking29 December 2012
Being a big fan of the book I had great expectations. I could hardly be more disappointed, the movie fails on all levels: The casting: Just about all the characters are badly casted with the exception of Derek de Lint as King of Dagonaut. The best example of the poor casting is Daan Schuurmans as Ridder Bendoe. Don't get me wrong, the actors are mostly the best Holland has to offer but in some horrible way the all seem to be in the wrong places and don't shine like they should. The hair styles and mustaches are baffling.

The setting: Very dark and with a lot of the same landscape, whereas in the book there is a wonderful display of all sorts of landscapes with dark and dangerous forests, beautiful rolling landscapes and sunny skies.

The script: Although very true to the book it fails to capture the viewer like the book does. The dialogs are downright boring and they fail to tell the story.

In all, this movie as turned a beautiful story into a very disappointing movie and seems to miss all the clues as to why the book was so good.
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