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The Forgotten Battle (2020)

I worked up a full head of steam recently with a feminist film critic I met at the San Sebastián film festival over Paul Verhoven, the Dutch director of Basic Instinct. 

She had him down as a subversive, sexually exploitative, cineaste who was now out of date.

I pointed out that his earlier films featuring the Netherlands in World War Two like Soldier of Orange were very good.

So when Netflix recommend another Dutch war film The Forgotten Battle I was more than interested.

European movies set in World War Two always engage me – as do the forgotten theatres of that global conflict.

It is often erroneously assumed that after the Normandy landings in June 1944 the liberation of Europe was a cake walk. Anything but.

Vast swathes of Europe were still under the Nazi yolk and the Wehrmacht fought redoubtably on.

Thus, although Antwerp was liberated, the Allies did not have free naval access to the Belgian port as the Schelde estuary to the port was in Zeeland and the Wehrmacht had dug in there.

The Canadians were the relieving force but they needed to attack them from the side across the marshlands.

This was the back drop to a twin plot.

The first was of Tuen (Susan Radder), a Dutch girl in Schelde who works as a clerk.

Her brother Kirk throws a stone at the Nazis and is hunted down. Foolishly her father Dr Visser, who works in a hospital, is led to believe by Oberst Berghof that if he gives up his son he will be treated fairly.

He does so but he is not. He is tortured for resistance names. Tuen throws in her lot with the Resistance and gives them a map of the marshlands necessary to avoid Canadian slaughter.

The second plot is the familiar one of a band of soldiers stranded behind enemy lines, in this case a RAF glider pilot (James Flatters) who crashed his plane.

The two plot lines conjoin to save the captured Tuen.

Between the two is Marinus van Steveren (Gijs Blom), a Dutch recruit to the Nazis, who has a crisis of conscience.

He in fact is one of the party that executes Kirk and ultimately saves Tuen.

It’s not a bad film with a certain pace but Verhoven would have added a twist to it like one of the resistance being an informer.

Now in his 80s, Verhoven is still dividing critics.

His latest release Benedetta is the story of a medieval lesbian nun.



About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts