‘The Forgotten Battle’ is basically the Dutch version of Christopher Nolan’s 2017 war film ‘Dunkirk.’ This feature directed by Dutch filmmaker Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. best known for the sci-fi movie ‘The Thing’ that came out in 2011, details the infamous Batlle of Scheldt that happened in 1944. ‘The Forgotten Battle’ features Dutch, English, and German languages and has subtitles for those unfamiliar with the main languages.
The production of this movie was massive, costing a whopping $16 million. This made the movie the second most expensive production in the Netherlands after another war flick, the 2006 ‘Zwartboek’ best known by its English title ‘Black Book’ from Dutch veteran Paul Verhoeven that boasted a budget of $21 million. One would have thought getting a more experienced director when it comes to war movies like Verhoeven would have been better; however, despite Matthijs being out of the game for almost ten years, he did justice to this feature making a great movie.
Many films about World War II have been crafted by iconic directors over the years, take Steven Spielberg’s ‘Saving Private Ryan’ or Michael Bay’s ‘Pearl Habor’ for instance. However, one major event of the iconic war has been neglected over the years, probably because not many people outside Holland and Canada know about the brutal engagement between the Allies and the Germans that went down in the estuary of the massive Scheldt River and lasted for months. The result was plenty of casualties from the Allies side as over 12,000 people were killed, wounded, or went missing, over 6,000 of whom were Canadians. Nevertheless, it was a vital phase in the liberation of Europe hence worthy of all the recognition.
‘The Forgotten Battle’ was shot in Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Belgium and boasts gorgeous sceneries throughout the movie. However, some scenes are thanks to some excellent CGI courtesy of the highly skilled director in that area. The film was initially scheduled to hit theatres in November 2020 but was postponed as people couldn’t entirely go back to the theatres because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The feature eventually debuted the following month and enjoyed a limited screening in theatres in the Netherlands. Since Netflix was part of the movie’s financiers, this flick will be available to stream on their platform starting October 15, 2021, marking the first Dutch picture on the streaming giant. ‘The Forgotten Battle’ was produced in collaboration with local broadcasters and other investors in the country.
The story of this iconic battle unfolds through three main characters: namely Teuntje, a reluctant, resistant girl from Zeeland played by Susan Radar, whose brother has crucial intelligence that could help the Allied armies to defeat the Nazis. But now, not knowing who to trust, it becomes difficult to pass on the information to the resistance. Then there is Marinus, a Dutchman who gets wounded serving in the German army. He is sent to Zeeland in an administrative role.
Fast-rising Dutch actor Gijs Blom embodies this character, and then there is William, an Allied soldier embodied by Jamie Flatters fighting to overthrow the well-established Germans. International cast members include ‘Harry Potter’ star Tom Felton and Theo Barklem Biggs, best known for the first chapter of the spy franchise ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service.’
If one is keen enough, they can’t help to notice that the action constantly loses pace, and the narrative becomes quite challenging to follow at some point and feels like one is watching three different stories as they are all jumbled up. The film also doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, and the story is told through action and history, in fact having more action scenes would have been a pleasant welcome.
The writers led by Paula van der Oest and five others opted for the mosaic storytelling style, which seeks to tell the story in a linear manner, though this limits the time the actors need to develop their characters fully. However, this sort of worked, as this doesn’t ruin the overall enjoyment of the movie still, one can’t help to wonder how the movie would have looked like if the three stories were told differently then reunited in a massive finale, kind of like a TV series.
Since it was also meant to educate the young people on a crucial moment in history, the final story was cross-checked and adapted by ancient military personnel to ensure that all aspects of the narrative were factual and correct to the T.
Telling the story using the three different characters creates quite a different angle from the usual us against them scenario witnessed in movies made over the years in this genre. It gives three different perspectives of the same story, which is pretty interesting. ‘The Forgotten Battle’ never portrays false heroism or glorifies the violence of war. Still, it explores in depth the horrors the war inflicted on people from three different viewpoints, in the most realistic and authentic manner. It highlights the fear, the pain, and the loss caused by the infamous battle. It fully puts in the fore the gunfights and the daily life the people endured under the heavy yoke of the Nazis.
The main protagonists in the film neatly forge their way through the narrative, nicely weaving through the different aspects of the story as their paths eventually cross towards the closing of the feature and they are forced to decide on whether to continue fighting each other or form a united front towards a common goal, that is freedom.
The performance by the cast is solid. The cinematography is fantastic. The score marries perfectly into the storyline depicting the various emotions and situations, and the locations that form the backdrop for the movie are stunning.
Overall, ‘The Forgotten Battle’ is a great movie that beautifully combines all the elements of a great film. From excellent delivery to visual aspects as well as the action sequences, it is a movie that could easily pass for a Hollywood production. If one is into war movies or just wants to add onto their historical knowledge, they will appreciate this feature which is not only entertaining but also educative.