Review Cadet 1947 [Netflix] Review on FilmTotaal

Direction: Rahabi Mandra, Aldo Swastia | Scenario: Rahabi Mandra, Aldo Swastia | cast: Kevin Julio (Moeljono), Bisma Karisma (Soetardjo Sigit), Marthino Lio (Bambang Saptoadji), Omara N. Esteghlal (Suharnoko Harbani), ao | Playing time: 111 minutes | Year: 2022

The Dutch film industry spent some screen time on the Indonesian struggle for independence until The East criticized this conflict. In Indonesia, however, there is often talk of ‘film perjuangan’, or the fighting film, of the resistance struggle against the Dutch right after World War II. Now such a patriotic film can also be seen in the Netherlands via Netflix, where bombs are raining down on the Dutch berets. The premise of Cadet 1947 promises a valuable history lesson, but the film quickly takes a drastic turn.[/b]

The film follows in and out of the Indonesian army’s very young air force during the ‘police actions’ from 1947 to 1949. It tells in particular about the important historical event with the Indonesian army’s first air attack on the Dutch armed forces. The goal of the film is therefore ambitious and promises to be a spectacular aviation film. Unfortunately, high expectations will soon collapse.

Three cadets dream of becoming pilots, but at the beginning of the film they are only allowed to build fake planes, which only serve to be bombed by the Dutch. They frolic and are more preoccupied with each other and their dreams than with military life. This comic behavior provides some relief from the heavy theme, but also leaves a negative mark on the representation of the Indonesian army.

They look clumsy during the sloppy march and awkward greeting, but the tone changes radically when the cadets are sent on a mission and must enter enemy territory. The comedy seems to make room for a real war film as the first Dutchmen enter the picture. A glance at the credits, however, reveals that there are very few actual Dutchmen among the white soldiers, and only a few will speak a word of Dutch. Fortunately, it does not have to be too much, for the occupiers are mowed down with an ease that would make Hollywood action heroes jealous.

As the film’s approach already reveals, the Indonesian planes will eventually take off and bomb a Dutch air base. The small budget did not allow recordings in the air, so bombs are thrown from the plane in a studio. As the history books tell, the bombing will succeed and the cadets will return to their own base as documented pilots. But as a Dutch viewer, this magnificent defeat in the film does not do much for you.

The film’s flaw is that the story is presented so generically and propagandistically that the historical context hardly makes a difference while watching the film. A few sentences of Dutch are spoken by anonymous actors, and ‘belanda’ is often cursed, but otherwise not much is offered to recognize the film as part of the country’s history. While the perspective from ‘the other side’ had provided an interesting experience for the Dutch viewer, the end result is a film that could just as well have been about the Americans against Vietcong.

The expectations that Cadet 1947 is unfortunately poorly realized. The raw edge of the war film, together with historical insight into one’s own past, leaves room for mediocre patriotic dialogues, stereotypical characters and a messy plot. Maybe this type of movie might stir up Indonesian viewers, but Netflix would have been better off not distributing it outside Indonesia.

Cadet 1947 can be seen on Netflix.

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