The East (De Oost) is a Dutch film, and rumoured submission for consideration for the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars. The film centres around Indonesia’s fight for independence from foreign colonialists after World War II. The Dutch military sends troops to the Indonesian colony to restore order and protect the people from rebels attempting to destroy the country by making it autonomous.
My first question was: Were any of these Dutch people former Nazis or Nazi collaborators? This was supported by the first scene of the film. It seemed to not only be in my mind but in the various soldiers’ minds as well. The film focused on one soldier Johan (Martijn Lakemeier), and the timeline shifted from the events in Indonesia, and his return to the Netherlands.
Johan is an idealistic young soldier and is passionate about protecting the Indonesian people from the rebels. This mindset is shared among most of the troopers, that they’re saviours. However, as the film goes on, and the troops, led by “the Turk” (Marwan Kenzari), the soldiers embrace the pure savagery. It is a little ironic, since these Dutch soldiers (most of them), were oppressed by the Nazis, and ultimately ended perpetrating the same thing against the Indonesian people. Throughout the film, you keep hoping someone will find their conscience again and refuse to go along with the brutality.
It was the typical colonizers versus the people that are being colonized. There is some controversy surrounding this film, mostly because of the racist language. If racial epitaphs in a historical context bother you, this film is probably a no-go. It would have been odd to sanitize it and not be historically accurate. The film was not kind to the Dutch, and rightfully so.
The first hour dragged on. I get that it was a set-up for the second half of the film, but still. I checked my watch multiple times during the first half. This was also a military film, so there were obligatory conversations about prostitutes and visits to the brothel. The prostitute storyline was unnecessary and had it been cut out, the first part wouldn’t have been so boring. I do think the second hour of the film made up for the first hour, because the end was good, though it did end as expected. I am glad that Johan ultimately redeemed himself.
Overall, the film had its faults, but it was still relatively solid. It seems like a worthy candidate for the Best Foreign Film Oscar race because it did end up getting across a clear message about redemption and calling out the wrongs in history.
Blue Finch Film Releasing presents The East on Digital Download 4 October
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I’m a Data Analyst, from the land of Matthew McConaughey. I’m an avid movie-goer and love seeing films in theaters. My most recent favorite films are Good Time, Only Lovers Left Alive, TENET, and England is Mine. When I’m not at the movies, I’m either reading or watching obscene amount of true crime and historical documentaries.