Soldier of Orange had come up on TCM’s schedule a while back, and I’d been meaning to get to it. For some reason, though, I never did, until now, and frankly, now that I’ve seen it, I wonder why it took me so long. Well, I’m not wondering all that much; the length of the film was pretty daunting, but as I got into the film a ways, the length of it didn’t seem to bother me any. Really, I’m glad it went on as long as it did; it was quite enjoyable, and for a war epic, a genre that has been quite extensive on the list, that was an all too rare thing to be had in this last leg of my journey.
Rutger Hauer delivers an unexpectedly empathetic performance as Erik, one of a group of students at a fraternity in the Netherlands during WWII. After a short hazing process makes him some new friends, the small group overhears a radio broadcast announcing England’s declaration of war against Germany, and after Germany invades the Netherlands, culminating in a swift capitulation from the Hague, the group finds themselves entering the war on various fronts, and the film tracks their progress through the events therein. First off, I should say that, if it weren’t for the foreknowledge, as well as Rutger Hauer’s starring role, I would not have made the connection that this was a Paul Verhoeven film at all. This comes across very much like what a Hollywood small-scale war epic would seem to be, and what was most impressive was how much I could see future such films in this one, making it quite progressive for the late 70s. As mentioned, this isn’t a full-scale war piece like Saving Private Ryan would end up being, and it’s not absolutely dripping with drama a la Schindler’s List. What this is is comfortable with following individuals through what they end up doing to aid either side of the war effort that they’re on. Only rarely do we get actual war action, and even then it comes in the form of glancing action, such as a contingent of Germans at a party shooting at a group of Dutch resistance leaders as they attempt to flee to the ocean. This is much more concerned with the individual efforts of men, rather than the big picture of what is accomplished by groups of men, however large or small. Oh, and the theme was quite memorable as well, and didn’t get overplayed to the point of exhaustion.
Even with the length, I was very surprised at how watchable this was, especially for a Verhoeven film. I got wrapped up into the film pretty early on, and from there the time seemed to fly by, and when it was all over and done with, it was quite satisfying indeed; not too long, but long enough to where you feel you’ve had your fill. Apparently, this was the most expensive Dutch film ever made at the time, and went on to be one of the most successful, even coming in only behind Verhoeven’s own Turkish Delight in a poll of the best Dutch films of the 20th century. I can see why; also, how this made a name for Verhoeven in Hollywood as well, seeing as if it weren’t for the foreign language, it might’ve as well been a Hollywood film of the era. Quite a surprising find, and a more than enjoyable one.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10