The Forgotten Battle (De slag om de Schelde) is a Dutch war film depicting the Battle of the Scheldt in 1944. Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. with a story by Paula van der Oest and Jesse Maiman and a screenplay by Paula van der Oest, the film stars Gijs Blom, Jamie Flatters, and Susan Radder. Alternating between the perspectives of a Dutch Axis soldier, a British Allied soldier, and a Dutch resistance agent, The Forgotten Battle depicts not only a bloody battle in WWII but the conscience of men and women on either side of the war.
There are a lot of WWII films out there, so new ones often try to take on a fresh perspective or an untold personal tale. This film aims for both in depicting a battlefield often overshadowed by American initiatives and through its rotating perspective characters. On both fronts, the film largely succeeds, with only a lack of real attachment to the actual characters holding the film back from even greater praise. The intimate moments are well depicted, and the battle scenes are fairly massive. The very high production quality shows, and frankly, is at least half of the reason the movie succeeds.
It isn’t that the story isn’t a good one or that the characters aren’t interesting. It’s a good premise: Teunt (Radder) works for the German-backing mayor, and her father is a well-respected doctor (Jan Bijvoet). But her brother (Ronald Kalter) is part of the local resistance, and she’s gotten herself into their mess. Meanwhile, Will (Flatters) is trying to convince his commanding officer (Tom Felton) to let him join the front against his father’s wishes. And on the Axis front, Marinus is recovering from an injury in Russia, where he is beginning to learn just what fighting for the losing side of this war really means. Each arc is interesting on its own, and the eventual meeting of these characters comes in a mostly satisfying way. There are more or less three acts to the film, a set-up, a long endeavor, and a grand conclusion. Each feels correctly paced, and all of the story beats blend well together.
The issue is really just that the characters don’t feel important enough as individuals. And not in a way where they’re meant just to be cogs in a war machine. None of the three perspective characters have much personality to speak of. They have noble missions and worthwhile stories, but I never felt connected to them beyond the general struggles they endured. Tom Felton’s character was the only one I ever felt an affinity towards, and that could be biased by his individual fame, but he was the only one that felt like a unique individual.
The lack of connection precludes the film from excellency, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t still a war film worth watching. If this is a genre you enjoy, you’ll certainly enjoy The Forgotten Battle. The sunken streets and grassy marshes are excellent locales that add a big layer of uncertainty to the whole affair. With so much ruin and emptiness, most of the film has an eerie air, which ironically is a good match for the largely stoic main characters. And the battle scenes are rather epic. There aren’t many grand heroics, but the explosions, screaming, and shock are bound to excite. It’s a rather graphic film, in both large battle scenes and some horrid intimate moments. But it never feels gratuitous.
The Forgotten Battle isn’t incredible or particularly special, other than being Netflix’s first Dutch film it has co-produced and the second most expensive Dutch film ever made. The main characters aren’t especially memorable either. But the greater story, the journey those characters take, and the way each of their stories ends are all totally satisfying and well worth the two hours for anybody who enjoys the genre.
The Forgotten Battle is streaming now on Netflix.
The Forgotten Battle
The Forgotten Battle isn’t incredible or particularly special, other than being Netflix’s first Dutch film it has co-produced and the second most expensive Dutch film ever made. The main characters aren’t especially memorable either. But the greater story, the journey those characters take, and the way each of their stories end are all totally satisfying and well worth the two hours for anybody who enjoys the genre.