TITLE: The Miniaturist
RELEASED: December 26, 2017
CAST: Anya Taylor-Joy, Romola Garai, Alex Hassell, Hayley Squires, Caolan Byrne
MY RATING: 5/5
Mesmerizing, Mysterious and Enchanting
I believe most of you have heard of Jessie Burton’s marvelous debut novel The Miniaturist, especially if you’re a fan of historical fiction. It caught my eye immediately, as I’m obsessed with Dutch history and culture, so I read it the first chance I got, and I loved it!
Several months before I read the book, I visited the Rijksmuseum on my trip to Netherlands, and in the 4+ hours I spent there marveling at the various exhibits, the one that caught my eye the most was this gorgeous dollhouse. It was in this large darkened room, with a light musty smell, and it was so quiet I had the feeling I was invading someone’s home. The dollhouse was huge, so big we had to climb steps to look into it, and as there were many people in line I didn’t have much time to take photos, I only snapped the red nursery, but the photo is too dark.
This is the actual cabinet, in good lightning, but the size of it can’t be glimpsed from the photo. This dollhouse was the inspiration for Jessie Burton’s novel, along with its true and very real owner, Petronella Oortman, and her husband Johannes Brandt. The rest is fiction.
In the end of 2017, BBC released a two-part miniseries based on The Miniaturist, starring Anya Taylor-Joy, whom I loved in The Witch and Split, so it’s safe to say I was hyped for the series. Even though it had been over a year since I’d read the novel, and some of the plot had faded from my mind, I was thrilled and very satisfied with the series.
Nella Oortman (Taylor-Joy), a poor 18-year old girl, comes from the countryside to the Amsterdam house of a wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt (Alex Hassell), whom she married a month before. Considering her financial status, and the fact the marriage was arranged, she is not heartily welcomed by Johannes’s sister Marin (Romola Garai), a highly religious and ascetic woman. Event the servants, Otto and Cornelia, are secretive and treat her without proper respect, and her new husband is nowhere to be found.
Nella soon finds out that Johannes is often traveling, and spends most of his time at home in his study. Secretive conversations can often be heard on the staircase; strange men appear at the doorway, and it becomes clear that everyone in this house, besides Nella, has a secret. That is until Nella gets a beautiful dollhouse as a gift from Johannes, in compensation for his neglect, and enough money to furnish it with her heart’s desire.
Having nothing else to do, Nella contacts a miniaturist – a craftsman specialized in miniature dolls and objects. But with each package she gets more than she bargained for, and the household’s secrets start to spill out like sand, nobody able to contain them and causing all of them a great harm.
I thoroughly enjoyed all 2,5 hours of The Miniaturist, with amazing costumes and set designs bringing the magical novel to life. The acting was great, accurately depicting the conservative manner of 17th century, but the gorgeous imagery stole my full attention. As is the case with the novel, the ending remains open and I know not many people like that, but I do. It left me wondering and devising my own explanation and significance of the mystery and purpose of the miniaturist. After all, as Marin says to Nella: “You saw what you wanted to see.”
I heartily recommend the mini series to: anyone who read and loved the novel; anyone in love with gorgeous historical settings and quality period drama; anyone in love with Dutch culture; and anyone in love with mysterious magical realism. There is no real magic here, but it can be felt strongly in each scene, underneath all the gilded layers.
Did you read and/or watch The Miniaturist? What did you think? Fell free to let me know in the comments!