Publieke Werken

Public Works © Joram Lürsen

Public Works

Amsterdam in the year of 1888: The grand new Central Railway Station is complete. To match this, a rich businessman is building a world class hotel just opposite the station: the Victoria. All the old houses on the construction ground are being demolished and the owners compensated. Just one person refuses: the violin maker Vedder.

Only for an exaggerated sum is he willing to give up his house and workshop. With the money he wants to make a university education possible for his son. But the hotel investor refuse to give in and simply build the hotel around the house where it still stands today. Vedder’s cousin, Anijs, comes up with a new plan to make money. However, Anijs, who works as a pharmacist, has his own motives. He frequently takes it upon him to provide medical services to a poor community of Jewish peat cutters in the countryside north of Amsterdam. These families live under miserable conditions and are treated with social contempt. Anijs wants to give them the opportunity to travel to America to start a new life. Carrying out their plan, Vedder and Anijs pay the ticket fees for their passage. The poor Jews promise a repayment after a successful start in the USA. But can this end well?

The film is a marvellously executed and captivating insight into the Holland of the late 19th century.