Review: For a Lost Soldier

Original title: Voor een verloren soldaat
Year: 1992 | Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Content Warning: This review mentions pedophilia and the sexual abuse of a child. Moreover, For a Lost Soldier explicitly depicts the grooming and sexual abuse of a child, including a sex scene between an adult and a child. If any of that makes you uncomfortable, I recommend that you do not read this review, nor do I suggest that you watch the film in question.

I doubt that many of you reading this have ever heard of For a Lost Soldier, and any of you that have probably already know what it’s about, even if you haven’t seen it. I chose to watch it partially because it’s an obscure LGBT film (which if you follow my reviews, you’ll know are my jam), and mostly out of morbid curiosity.

And here’s the thing: This isn’t a bad movie. It’s actually one of the better WWII-period dramas out there because it doesn’t adhere to the tropes that have come to define the mini-genre. It’s interesting, engaging, well-acted, beautifully shot…it basically checks all of the boxes of what make a film “good.”

For a Lost Soldier screenshot

But then we have the infamous relationship between Walt (Andrew Kelley) and Jeroen (Maarten Smit), and things get complicated fast. It’s really very unclear exactly what For a Lost Soldier has to say about its extremely controversial subject matter. On one hand, I can’t say that this relationship is portrayed as an abusive and manipulative one, even though it is. Adult Jeroen (Jeroen Krabbé) clearly looks back on it fondly, and even when it’s happening, the film doesn’t make it clear that Walt is taking advantage of a preteen boy that doesn’t even speak his language. I mean, he literally picked a child out of a crowd and proceeded to prey on him; the problem is that the film’s tone does not match the events that are being depicted. But on the other hand, Walt leaves the Netherlands without even saying goodbye to Jeroen, and the boy has his heart broken (very similarly to Elio in Call Me By Your Name [2017]), so there are negative consequences of this wildly inappropriate relationship.

Does this film openly and explicitly endorse the pedophilic nature of Walt and Jeroen’s relationship? I would say not exactly. But it also stops far short of outright condemning it, and the closest thing to a “moral” that I can glean from this film is that while Walt’s courting of Jeroen is obviously problematic, it’s ultimately okay because Jeroen (both as a child and an adult) doesn’t see it as abuse and it didn’t have any apparent negative effects on his life. If that’s the message here, it should obviously be rejected wholesale, because abuse is abuse, especially when it comes to the sexual abuse of a child, and just because the child was groomed into thinking that his predator “loved” him and/or that he “loved” his predator does not mean that he wasn’t a victim of an unspeakable crime.

Overall, I think that For a Lost Soldier is a “good” movie that gets lost in the weeds when it comes to tackling very sensitive subject matter and having a clear message regarding that subject matter. I don’t even think that it’s impossible for a film to portray this type of relationship on a thought-provoking, philosophical, provocative level; I just think that this film falls short of that goal.

Language: Dutch, English
Genre: Drama, Romance, War
Runtime: 1 hr. 32 min.
Rating: Unrated

Director: Roeland Kerbosch
Starring: Maarten Smit, Jeroen Krabbé, Andrew Kelley, Freark Smink, Elsje de Wijn

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