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Film Review: Soldier of Orange

Posted on the 23 May 2013 by Donnambr @_mrs_b

Summary:

Soldier of Orange is a terrific war film and a very interesting insight into the decisions that faced Dutch men and women during the occupation of their land by the Germans.

More DetailsAbout Soldier of Orange (1977)Soldier of OrangeDirector Paul Verhoeven’s acclaimed WWII epic. Erik (Rutger Hauer), Alex (Derek de Lint), Gus (Jeroen Krabbe) and their friends are all students at a Dutch university in the late 1930s. When the Nazi occupation begins, the members of the group all respond in different ways, with some joining the ranks of the German army, others fighting for the resistance, some escaping to England and still others falling victim to collaboration or Nazi torture. The film, based on the autobiographical novel by Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, follows the diverging adventures of the friends throughout the war, from the beginning of the occupation all the way through to the liberation.

 

Starring: Rutger Hauer, Jeroen Krabbé, Susan Penhaligon, Edward Fox, Lex van Delden

Directed by: Paul Verhoeven

Runtime: 165 minutes

Studio: Starz/Anchor Bay

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Review: Soldier of Orange 

Paul Verhoeven’s Soldier of Orange is an acclaimed Dutch film which tells the story of a group of university friends whose lives are turned upside down when Europe descends into the Second World War and the Netherlands are occupied by Germany. The war has a different impact on the group of friends with some joining the resistance, others fighting for the Dutch army and some joining the Germans. Given this is the bloodiest war in history it is no surprise that not all of our friends survive. The film starts in the late thirties and concludes with the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945.

The main characters are Erik Lanshof (Rutger Hauer) and Guus LeJeune (Jeroen Krabbe). When they first meet at university, Erik is a newcomer and forced to sing for Guus, having soup poured on him whenever he is off-key which is a lot. Guus empties the bowl of soup over Erik then smashes it on his head, drawing blood and knocking him unconscious. Guus regrets his actions and he visits a recovering Erik with the two becoming best friends for the remainder of their lives. Other notable friends include Nico (Lex van Delden) who joins Erik and Guus in the resistance, Alex (Derek de Lint) who joins the Dutch army but later fights for the Germans in Russia, Jan (Huib Rooymans) who is a student boxing champion and Robby (Eddy Habbema) who sets up a transmitter to communicate with the British. Our friends’ varying paths tend to converge at key moments during the film and beneath the camaraderie that defines them at the outset is a duty to their separate causes. There is even time for some romance with Robby’s fiancé Esther (Belinda Meuldijk) having an affair with Erik, while Erik and Guus both share Susan (Susan Penhaligon), an English soldier, where they manage to escape across the Channel and meet with the exiled Dutch Queen Wilhelmina (Andrea Domburg). As the war progresses, each of the friends must face up to the prospect of a young death but how many survive the war?

 

This is a very good war epic with some terrific performances throughout. I am familiar with Rutger Hauer who stars in my favourite film, Blade Runner, so it was wonderful to see him earlier in his career. Hauer puts in a great central performance as Erik but the rest of the cast are all notable. The only issue I had with the film was that its carefully paced narrative suddenly sped up to cover the last three years or so of the war. Up until then all had been moving along nicely but in the space of a few minutes it seemed the fates of most of the university friends were quickly dealt with and they were brushed off our sleeves. This is a minor complaint really but I felt the film could maybe have been extended a little to develop this section further.

 

Soldier of Orange is a terrific war film and a very interesting insight into the decisions that faced Dutch men and women during the occupation of their land by the Germans. With an excellent cast and well-paced plot this is one not to be missed.

Verdict: 5/5


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