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This film depicts World War II through the eyes of several Dutch students. It follows them through the beginning of the war, the Nazi occupation and the liberation. Written by
Mark Logan <email@example.com>
Director Paul Verhoeven originally wanted Derek de Lint to play Erik Lanshof, the title character. He had previously directed Rutger Hauer in the Dutch television series Floris (1969) and the film Turkish Delight (1973) and did not think Hauer was right for the lead in this picture. De Lint read for Lanshof several times, but Verhoeven never quite got the performance out of de Lint he was looking for. He then decided to give Hauer a try. Hauer surprised Verhoeven by giving a very strong reading, with the result that Verhoeven cast him as Erik and de Lint as Alex. See more »
During the scenes of the invasion of Holland, the Dutch troops are shown wearing post-1940 insignia. See more »
Paul Verhoeven films are notorious for everything except what they should be known for: portraying reality in a frank, no-lies manner that few other filmmakers even dare to attempt. It's nice to know that, in this era of Hollywood churning out films that look more like video games or music videos, Verhoeven continues to make films that push envelopes and give the audience something to think about.
Soldaat van Oranje, like its American counterpart twenty years later, is a film about war that takes its subject by the horns and doesn't let go at any moment. As we are introduced to the group of Dutch students whose eyes we see World War II through, we see a reflection of one rarely acknowledged truth: that numerous ordinary, everyday people, ignorant of what was really going on in Nazi Germany, couldn't have cared less about what was going on. It was only when the reality of the war was brought to them, as the Germans invaded Holland, that these students sat up and took notice of what the war was doing to ordinary people. Indeed, early on in the film, Hauer's character even says that a spot of war would be "exciting".
Another reality that this film prefers to hit the viewer square in the face with is that while the war changed a lot of aspects of everyday life for everyone, there were some things that stayed the same regardless. In the scene where Hauer's character is attempting to board a boat bound for England, the German army's refusal to let the sailors on board prompts a quick "back to the pub" response from the working-class sailors. Business as usual in that respect.
Considering that this is a Paul Verhoeven film, it is actually quite surprising how little violence there is to be found here. Granted, it is not a family film, and some of the torture scenes will make your blood boil as well as make some sick people like myself chuckle, but unlike the film that Verhoeven made with numerous references to this one twenty years later, there is surprisingly little blood and gore. Indeed, unlike the sarcastic satire of Starship Troopers, Soldaat Van Oranje tells its story in a restrained, almost documentary-like manner that is surprising as well as creative.
All in all, I'd give Soldaat Van Oranje a qualified ten out of ten. It is not going to appeal to everyone, and some just won't get it at all, but it delivers a powerful story about the loss of innocence and freedom that should be required viewing in all schools, not just Dutch ones. Oh, and I cannot remember who said it, but they are right about one thing: the footage of the Queen returning to Dutch soil made me want to shout "Oranje boven!", and I am not even Dutch.
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