For a Lost Soldier

Summer lovin', happened so fast
★★
☆
Released: 
1992
Director: 
Roeland Kerbosch
Starring: 
Maarten Smit, Andrew Kelley, Jeroen Krabbé, Freark Smink
The Setup: 
Young boy has brief affair with an adult soldier in the Netherlands just after WWII.
Discussion: 

I had seen this movie about 10 years ago, and it didn't make that much of an impression, despite its subject matter. But I thought it might be ripe for re-viewing, so I watched it again last night. And it still didn't make much of an impression.

Jeroen Krabbé [best known in the U.S. as the villain from The Fugitive] plays a choreographer who is overseeing rehearsals of a work of his, about "freedom." He gives his dancers vague directions that they can't really follow, and shows them videotapes of the Netherlands' liberation from the Nazis, and his dancers obviously just want him to shut up. So he returns to the Netherlands to recharge his creativity, and the majority of the movie is his flashback to his childhood.

12-year-old Jeroen [also the character's name in the movie] is shipped off from Amsterdam to the Netherlands in order to escape the Nazis. He arrives at the house of this Dutch family [who really do wear wooden shoes], led by the hhhhhhhhhhhandsome Hait, who very unobtrusively makes Jeroen welcome in his home.

So there's some adolescent shenanigans, then the liberation happens and some Canadian soldiers come into town to stay for a bit. One of them, Walt, takes an immediate shine to Jeroen, and pursues him pretty relentlessly. Their friendship grows, and I don't know, maybe I'm just way too outwardly gay, but the stepfather was warning Jeroen that "we don't do that sort of thing here" before it even seemed to me like anything had HAPPENED. But soon enough they are [tastefully] romping in bed together, and laying quietly together as Jeroen protests at being called a baby. "No," says Walt, "I just meant that you're my baby."

Anyway, it goes on, and once it's over, we see that the adult Jeroen has somehow [it's not exactly explained how] used his perusing of these memories to improve his choreography and the attitude of his dancers-though their work still looks really banal to me.

I just didn't feel it. As a homo with a big-time Daddy complex, I expected to be much more moved, or even involved, in the story. But the whole thing stayed at a distance. I never felt the love that developed between the characters, or the admiration or awe that Jeroen had for Walt-as I said, it looked to me like they were just good friends, when the people in the film knew exactly what was going on. I suspect this happened because the filmmakers were so worried about keeping the whole thing tasteful-which they do-that the deeper emotions that might have stirred up more troubling moral issues were flattened out. On the other hand, they do succeed in portraying Walt as somewhat predatory without making him a monster or creepy molester, and at portraying Jeroen's budding homosexuality, as well as his lack of comprehension of what's really going on between him and Walt. The majority of reviewers on the IMDb report finding the movie moving, so keep that in mind, but personally I felt somewhat distant throughout.

The DVD for this film contains four trailers for other movies [but not this one], all dealing with homosexuality in some way. It can be interesting to see how they do or do not address the homosexuality. My favorite is a line from the trailer for Borstal Boy that only alluded to it by mentioning "a quest for personal freedom." Yes, canny viewers, that MEANS cocksucking. I am constantly reminded to remember that being gay is an uplifting, heartwarming, life-affirming experience. Why do I keep forgetting that?

Should you watch it: 

It depends on your degree of interest in the subject. Personally, I wouldn't.

Comments

well, I stumbled upon your review and could not agree more. Especially with the relatively predatory symptoms of quasi pedofilia that harbor within the lights of a character portrayed here as Walt Cook, perhaps a wee bit too close to flat our naming him Walking (nomadic) Cock.

I also found the young protagonist to slowly find himself becoming aware is homo erotic review of the males with which he is now surrounded by, but not probably, arrogantly, wistfully, or even secretively gay, at least not yet at this point in his young life.

The scene which others report as tender struck me as otherwise, as the boy is practically punished for his fondness and newfound closeness with Walt, who suddenly but unsuruptiously violates the boy while providing him his own forefinger as a bite stick to help quiet the boy's pending but trusting discomfort during this all but tender act. this struck me as no way to introduce a young adolescent boy to such potential pleasure when it is so profoundly married to an emotional connection as the film suggest or alleges to other viewers. I found this seem to be quite disturbing, although I did appreciate the suggestion in lieu of any explicit and unnecessary posture as a form of sexual gratification. In a phrase, Walt goes too far too soon...

nevertheless, the relationship is otherwise very very real between these two, and the scene werewolf does in fact finally leave for a good is done with strong acting chops which resonate as a heightened awareness for how sad life can be when such things are just beginning only the end so soon. I suppose, therein lies any success the film has in leaving a lasting and positive impression on this gay male viewer.still, one wonders why our protagonist finds himself growing up to recall this as his liberation, his freedom giving moment, instead of having been left feeling used by Walt.

This is a very profound film. My thoughts on the film are and I could be wrong here is we receive an idealistic view of the relationship in a way that the boy as an adult would have liked to remember it. We are kind of left to make our own minds up. If you watch the film before reading the book you can't help but feel a bit disgusted in yourself for finding it so touching. In the book we learn what many of us suspected that this was indeed a relationship of abuse the soldier is far more cold and sometimes dismissive of the boy. It would interesting to know the perspective of the writers/producers of the film in contrast to the book for example in the film the boy takes the photo of the soldier Walt but in the book he gives it to him. The film is touching, emotional, very occasionally humorous and deals with some serious subject matter. Give it a go whether you're gay, straight, whatever. Don't dismiss it immediately because of the subject matter. This film won't be for everyone and is far from easy watching but its a great film none the less and is almost certainly one of a kind.