The Miniaturist | Featured Programs | CET Connect

The Miniaturist

Sundays, September 9 through September 23, at 9pm on CET

Golden Age Amsterdam comes alive in this adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestselling novel The Miniaturist, starring Anya Taylor-Joy (Split, The Witch), Romola Garai (Churchill’s Secret, The Hour) and Alex Hassell (Genius: Picasso, Suburbicon). Gorgeously filmed on location in The Netherlands and the U.K., the three-part drama airs Sundays, September 9 through September 23. Taylor-Joy plays a young bride who receives mysterious packages from a reclusive maker of miniatures — tiny objects that appear to predict the future.

Set in 1686, when the Dutch Republic was one of the world’s richest and religiously zealous nations, The Miniaturist captures the paradox of extreme wealth combined with puritanical abhorrence of the pleasure that riches make possible. Petronella Oortman (Taylor-Joy), called Nella, is the unwitting victim of this clash of values. A naïve eighteen-year-old from a bankrupt aristocratic family in the provinces, she is wooed by Johannes Brandt (Hassell), a handsome and prosperous merchant looking for a wife. The two wed, but he dispenses with nuptial intimacies to depart immediately on a business trip, arranging for her to join him at his mansion in Amsterdam a few weeks later. When Nella arrives, Johannes is still away, leaving her in the care of his grim and overbearing sister and the household’s two controlling servants.

After Johannes returns, he remains emotionally cool to Nella, giving evasive reasons. Nonetheless, he shows his affection by presenting her with a singular wedding gift: an exquisitely crafted cutaway model of the very house where she is now living, and he instructs her to furnish it as she likes by calling on the services of one of the local makers of miniature objects — a miniaturist.

The miniaturist communicates only by letter and the first order includes items that Nella didn’t request: a tiny cradle, a replica of Johannes’ dog and a miniature upholstered chair exactly like the one where Nella is sitting as she unwraps the package. Without direction, the miniaturist keeps sending new creations, including dolls with details that hint at closely held secrets. Amsterdam is a city full of secrets, which Nella proceeds to unlock thanks to clues from her unseen artisan. In a community where authorities regard sugar as sinful, gingerbread men as idolatrous, and certain sexual behaviors as grounds for execution, secrecy can be a life-or-death matter.