The planned five-year, €134 million ($152 million) renovation took twice as long and cost three times as much, with construction delays, public protests and bureaucratic red tape. Hoogendijk chronicles stubborn determination — the Dutch Cyclists' Union fights to keep museum passageways open to bicycle traffic, its possessive caretaker monitoring the hulking structure every day for a decade — and single-minded devotion: The curator of Asian art treats Japanese temple-guardian statues with spiritual reverence; female conservators restore smug aristocrats in a Cornelis Ketel canvas with quiet, careful touchups and vigorous, noisy varnishing. That 1588 painting of guardsmen protecting Amsterdam from Spain is a pithy choice: The Spanish architects behind the renovation are treated like cultural invaders.
Originally a two-part, four-hour documentary, this 131-minute version is lively and incisive, with Hoogendijk utilizing aerial shots, computer-generated images, scale models and architectural drawings to explore the museum's metamorphosis. Her elegant portrait of dysfunction details how a massive project became mired in minutiae, and cultural guardians had to rework tradition in order to save it.