Der Weisse Wal

  • 80'
  • Netherlands
  • 2001
Playful and partly fictional documentary about the historic adventures of a white whale that swam up the River Rhine to great public interest in 1965. The film is partly made up of unique archive footage that tells the story of the whale, but also provides an unusual glimpse of an age. The so-called Beluga whale was soon called Moby Dick by the media (named after the legendary philosophical adventure novel by Herman Melville). It has never become clear why the whale swam up the Rhine, which was very polluted at the time. It was also impossible to catch the animal, despite persistent efforts by the Dutch and German river police, which received help from a fanatical German zoo director. Moby Dick swam 400 kilometres, to the German seat of government at Bonn. Those who were sensitive for ecological symbolism (and there were not very many of them in 1965) saw a message in this: politics had to change its attitude to nature.The maker tells his story in a catchy, ironic way, but between the lines he also takes the message of the whale seriously. He points out that, in the years after the visit by Moby Dick, treaties were signed to make the River Rhine cleaner, Greenpeace was founded and the first green political parties emerged. The miraculous journey of the whale was one of the first real media events (in 1965, television was still in its infancy); now we would call it: a real whale hype. (GjZ)
Stephan Koester
Countries of production
Netherlands, Germany
Production Year
Festival Edition
IFFR 2001
Betacam SP PAL
International title
The White Whale
German, Dutch
Metropolitan Pictures, Lichtblick Film- und Fernsehproduktion GmbH
First Hand Films (Berlin)
Carl-Ludwig Rettinger, Volker Anding
Rike Anders
Local Distributor
Upstream Pictures (NL)