Review of the forgotten battle: the epic war you can’t miss

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The Forgotten Battle (Netflix, Dutch)

Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr

Note: *** ½

I remember my favorite movie critic Roger Ebert writing about David Lean’s great failed love story in 1970, Ryan’s Daughter, that the story was too light to bear the burden of Lean’s vision.

The opposite is true of The Forgotten Battle, a Dutch war epic set in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation of WWII. The enormity and scale of the drama is so overwhelming that it bears the full brunt of ambitious director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. in direction.

Throughout the gripping drama, I was speechless at the immensity of the scale and the devastating dimensions of the story, the epic level of aesthetic articulation, where the damned and the condemned performed a dance defying the dead.

The reconstruction of the German-occupied Netherlands with all its frenzied tensions is perfect, with a consistently powerful and persuasive tone. Above all, The Forgotten Battle is an extremely entertaining war drama. Brutal and beautiful, wild and splendid, this is the kind of experience we missed in movie theaters even in the pre-Covid era. How many films have we seen that justified the scale of the big screen? The Forgotten Battle does, even as we watch it at home we can’t miss its director’s epic vision as conveyed in almost a frame. The characters of the sprawling saga are far too numerous to mention.

What we can’t ignore is the tonal tenacity that every character, big or small, brings to the panoramic plot, imbuing almost every moment with an urgency that transcends the tides of temporality.

How to describe the characterizations of the epic drama? These are people who are struggling with their conscience during a time of enormous difficulty. Our heroine should be Teuntje (Susan Radder) who is reluctantly drawn into the Dutch resistance after her brother is brutally executed by the Nazis.

To me, Teuntje and the Dutch soldier Marinus (Gijs Blom) who works for the Nazis, are the double voice of conscience, gloriously grappling with their guilt while stifling their better judgment.

Elsewhere, a group of British soldiers are abandoned to civilization. They undergo their own physical, emotional and spiritual struggle, a journey into the darkness that seems to define each character.

The Forgotten Battle is an epic story told with a virility and sensibility that gives a tremendous artistic twist to the brutality that surrounds it. This is a great movie not to be missed, never to be forgotten.

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About Victoria Rothstein

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