Soldaat van Oranje (Soldier of Orange) (1977)
Director: Paul Verhoeven.
Starring: Rutger Hauer (Erik Lanshof), Jeroen Krabbé (Guus LeJeune), Susan Penhaligon (Susan), Edward Fox (Colonel Rafelli), Lex van Delden (Nico), Derek de Lint (Alex), Huib Rooymans (Jan Weinberg), Dolf de Vries (Jack Ten Brinck), Eddy Habbema (Robby Froost), Belinda Meuldijk (Esther), Peter Faber (Will Dostgaarde), Rijk de Gooyer (Gestapo-man Breitner), Paul Brandenburg (SS Lt. Thelen), Ward de Ravet (Resistance Leader), Bert Struys (Resistance Leader).
Dutch collaboration and resistance to German occupation
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Newsreel of the plane bringing Dutch Queen Wilhelmina back from exile in England.
Flashback. Leiden 1938. Eric Lanshof is being accepted into an upper class fraternity at the University of Leiden. To avoid the serious hazing, he jumps under a table where he meets a couple of other inductees Jack Ten Brink and Alex. They all start to become friends. The fraternity council enters led by the president named Gus. Gus sees the three inductees sneaking out from under the table in order to get some dinner. He calls them all up to the front. He then starts to pick on Eric. He gets a little carried away and actually knocks out Eric.
Eric has his head bandaged. A couple, Robbie and Esther, come over to him to give him some cheering up. Robbie wants to make a quick exit, but Esther seems enchanted with Eric and wants to hear him talk about how he got his head wound. Gus rides up on a motorcycle. He apologizes to Eric for going a little too far at the induction ceremony. Eric accepts the apology with ease and the two start to develop a friendly relationship.
At a tennis party, the radio announces that England is now at war with Germany. Eric is interested but does not seem very concerned at all. He simply goes back to playing tennis.
May 1940. Eric tells his associates that nothing will happen to them. Robbie and Esther are to become engaged next year. When Robbie has to leave, Esther dances with and kisses Eric. They go outside to take the relationship farther, but Eric is more interested with the sound of planes flying overhead. The planes are German and are on their way to bomb Dutch cities.
May 10, 1940. Eric and Gus in tuxedos ride through Leiden on motorbikes. German planes arrive and start bombing the city. This maddens the two young men and they go in to volunteer for the Dutch army. The man at the desk there is in a state of shock. He just keeps repeating that they should come back in ten days. Eric takes off . He runs into some German paratroopers. He is a little nervous, but the Germans act very polite to him and go on about their business.
May 13, 1940. Dutch troops travel via bicycles. The big news is that the Dutch Queen has fled to England.
May 14, 1940. The Dutch farmers seem oblivious to the German occupation. In the countryside there are not many German soldiers hanging around. A man reports to the Dutch troops that German parachuters have landed nearby. A couple of Dutch soldiers go to check it out. But instead of finding Germans they run into a man and woman having sex in the hay. Apparently, the whole thing was just a joke set up by the local mentally ill man, who laughs hardily at the joke he played on the soldiers.
News arrives that Rotterdam has been heavily bombed and that for the Dutch the war is over. The war only lasted for four days. The soldiers are a bit disgusted that the war is over so fast and are not quite sure what they should do now.
Many of the local Dutch girls mix in with German soldiers at the beach. Gus and Eric plan to use a motorboat to cross the North Sea to England to participate in the fight against the Germans. But when they put the gas in the chest with the motor, the gas can is pierced by a nail in the bottom of the chest. The gasoline drains out onto the sand and when someone throws a match down after lighting a cigarette, the little shack where the chest was stored explodes in a ball of fire. Eric and Gus make a quick exit from the area.
Eric goes over to speak with Robbie who tells him that he will contact the English in order to have them pick up Eric. The Germans in the area have been looking for the illegal communication and are closeby. When Robbie sends his message, the Germans are able to isolated a small area from which the message was sent. They are sure that the next time a message is sent, they will have their culprit.
The news is that Jews are now banned from the University. A couple of Dutch police working for the Germans pick out a Jewish man and start to harass him. They pretend they will help the man push his cart filled with his furniture and then push the cart into the canal. They then start to beat up the Jewish man. A Jewish friend of Eric's named John, the university champion boxer, comes to the aide of the abused man. He throws one of the policemen into the canal and starts to strangle the other policemen to death. Eric intervenes. He brings John up to his place to tell him that he can take his place and be picked up by the English to be taken to their country. John accepts the idea.
An English water plane is about to land on the lake near the boat with Eric and John and some other friends inside, when a German boat approaches and starts firing at the plane and at the Dutch in the boat. The plane gets away, but one of the Dutch men gets killed by the Germans. John is captured. Eric and Robbie are able to get away. John is taken to headquarters and is tortured. The Germans ask John if he has heard anything about a Dutchman named Van der Zanden. He has not. The Germans then tell him that Van der Zanden is their inside man in London.
Eric goes to Gus to tell him that he needs a place to hide out. Gus gives him a very luxurious place to stay.
Gus takes some photos of the German fortifications along the coast. A Dutchman takes money for ratting on Gus to the Germans. Gus gives Eric the film at another tennis party. While talking, German soldiers descend on the whole party and everyone is taken away. Gus is scared what will happen to him if the Germans torture him. So, the much calmer Eric, makes a diversion so that Gus can sneak away from the Germans.
Eric is sent to a prison. There he sees John. The two wave to each other. In his cell Eric exposes the film to the sun and then hides it in the slop bucket. He sees a message left by John on the wall saying that Van der Zanden is the traitor in London.
Waalsdorpervlakte, April 10, 1941. John is taken out to this place of death used by the Germans. There he is executed by firing squad. Eric is afraid that he will be next. The head of the prison talks with Eric about a message he wrote on toilet paper. Demanding to know what Eric used to write the message, he tells him he used his own feces. This disgusts the German and he threatens to kill Eric if he ever does something like that again. Much to Eric's surprise, the Germans release him from prison. When Eric leaves, the order is given that he be followed.
Esther visits Eric. She tells him that Robbie wants to see him. Eric says he cannot because he is being tailed. So Esther acts like she is preparing to have sex with Eric in order that Eric can slip away without being noticed. In the town Eric sees his friend Alex in a German parade. Alex has actually joined the German army. Eric does not hold this against him and the two wave at each other.
After speaking with Robbie about arranging another escape attempt to England, Eric returns to Esther and she chooses to have sex with him.
Robbie is captured by the Germans. They tell him that he has to work for them or else they will send his Jewish girlfriend Esther to a concentration camp. It seems that Robbie knows he is trapped.
Eric graduates. He will now be a lawyer. Jack and Esther congratulate him. A friend in the resistance tells Eric that a Swiss ship will take him to England. Eric kisses Esther good-bye.
The Germans arrive to examine the Dutch crew. But there are officers of the German navy with the captain of the ship and they act as a brake on the German army commander. The crew arrives acting as if they are all drunk. They make fun of the German commander who gets so mad that he attempts to shoot some of the crewmen. But he is stopped by the German naval officers. They tell the German army commander to let the crew board the ship and the commander reluctantly agrees. On board ship Eric runs into his good buddy Gus.
An English ship arrives to pick up the Dutch volunteers. Eric, Gus and Will are delighted.
October 1941. England. Gus, Eric and Will all have to be interviewed. Eric is taken with a pretty secretary named Susan who works for his English interviewer. When Eric passes the interview, he starts stalking Van der Zanden. He has a small gun and tries to shoot the traitorous Dutchman. But Eric is grabbed by a couple of Dutch guards working with Van der Zanden. He is escorted not to jail but to a kind of grassy plaza where he sees his friends Will and Gus. They are all going to meet the Queen of the Netherlands.
Eric learns that the Germans wanted the Dutch to think that Van der Zanden, a close aide to the Queen of the Netherlands, was a traitor. That would throw confusion into the ranks of the Dutch in England and the resistance in Holland. The Dutch volunteers are thrilled to meet the queen. Eric learns that he will be used to establish contacts between the Dutch resistance and the Dutch in England. Eric says he needs a secretary and he recommends Susan. He then takes Susan over to pick up Gus who is at present crawling through the mud with a rifle as part of his basic training. They rescue Gus. Gus and Susan soon start to become cozy which is disappointing to Eric.
Eric sees the Queen again. She tells him that in addition to his other duties, she wants him to bring back to her some of the leaders of the resistance who will be the future leaders of the Netherlands.
Gus and Eric vie with each other to be the one who actually goes ashore on Dutch soil to carry out the mission. Susan intervenes by suggesting a contest. She rigs the contest so that Gus wins. (She is with Gus but secretly wants to get Gus out of the way so she can be with Eric.) Eric and Gus get on an English ship that lets them off very near the coast. Eric escorts Gus to the shore and then returns to the ship. Wearing a tuxedo, Gus is able to get through the German checkpoint and into town. When Eric returns to England Susan is there to pick him up.
Gus has trouble. The English transmitter he brought doesn't work. So they have to rely on Robbie to get messages through to the English. The resistance doesn't like this idea at all, but have to agree. In England, the delay causes the top brass to send Eric into Holland.
Robbie is in a meeting with the resistance leadership when two German policemen rush into the room to declare they are all under arrest. Robbie takes out a pistol and shoots both policemen. The group makes the decision to abandon their meeting place. Robbie begs them to take him along and Gus vouches for Robbie. After the resistance men leave, the two supposedly dead German policemen get up off the floor. It was all a fake to trick the resistance.
Eric meets with Esther. He grows suspicious when he sees all the fine goods that she and Robbie have. They have things that no one can get even in London. He has increasing doubts about Robbie's role in the resistance.
Robbie drives the men into the German fortified area. He is able to get past the guards because he has the appropriate documents. Eric is able to get into the fortified area by dressing in a tuxedo, pretending he is going to a party and grabbing a ride with a high German officer headed to the party. At the party Alex spots Eric. Alex actually dances with Eric in front of everyone. Eric's old friend is home from the Russian front where he won the Iron Cross. The drunken women around Alex start teasing him about the iron cross and start throwing it between each other, keeping it away from the pursuing Alex. Given the distraction, Eric escapes from the party.
Eric finds Gus and tells him that Robbie has betrayed the resistance. Eric approaches Robbie with a look so determined that it warns Robbie. He grabs a flare gun from a pocket and fires it into the air. This is the sign for the Germans to capture the resistance men. The resistance men start running. Some of them are killed. Gus is captured. But Eric gets away by swimming out into the North Sea where again he is picked up by an English ship.
November 8, 1942. The Hague. Gus rides up on a bicycle to Robbie and shoots him dead with three shots to the chest. The Germans give pursuit and capture him.
Eric cheats on an eye test (he has terrible eyesight) and gets into the Royal Air Force. He has sex with Susan.
Russia. July 11, 1943. A Russian boy asks Alex for some bread. Alex throws it into the dirt. The young fellow picks up the dirty bread. He sees Alex go into an outhouse. The boy pulls out a hand grenade, prepares it for detonation and throws it into the outhouse. Alex is no more.
Eric goes on a bombing run over Nuremburg. Gus is tortured by the Germans.
Wolfenbuttl Concentration Camp. December 25, 1944. The Germans execute Gus by guillotine after a torture session.
Eric returns from his bombing run. He tells Susan: "I love you."
Back to the present. Liberation Day. May 5, 1945. Eric visits Esther. Her hair is very short, the result of Dutch anger over Robbie's and her cooperation with the Germans. Esther tells Eric that she does not hold a grudge against anyone. Eric meets with his friend Jack and they celebrate the end of the war in Europe.
Good movie. It was interesting to see the attitude of the Dutch people to German occupation. Apparently, there was a lot of cooperation between the Germans and all too many Dutch. The director said that the Germans were comparatively well-behaved in the Netherlands and this encouraged cooperation. (Of course, the director adds that the Germans were relatively well-behaved as long as you don't count all the innocent Dutch they killed.) But there was also a Dutch resistance to the German occupation. The main character of the movie, Eric, was only committed to adventure and not to women (so says the director). He was not a very political person and chose friendship over politics, as illustrated in his friendship with Alex that survived his joining the German army and fighting for Hitler.) Eric loved to chase women, but when adventure called he followed the call, leaving the women behind. And what could be a bigger adventure in the Netherlands than to join the Dutch resistance against the Germans. Hey, he even got to meet the queen of the Netherlands. The director also said that every year in May the Dutch honor those Dutchmen and women who lost their lives fighting with the resistance against Germany. Rutger Hauer was great as the cad and adventurer Eric.
Patrick L. Cooney, Ph. D.
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