Winter in Wartime (2008)

Better than average

Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on May 4, 2011 on tonymacklin.net.

Winter in Wartime (2008) is an evocative Dutch movie about a youthful adolescent coming of age in Nazi-occupied Holland in January 1945.

It smacks of familiarity, but has a few surprises that invest it with life, if not originality. And the superior cinematography by Guido van Gennep creates a world of snowy, chilly clarity.

But the world is not so clear for the young major character. Based on a novel by Jan Terlouw, Winter in Wartime is the story of Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier), who is the son of the mayor (Raymond Thiny) of a Holland village, and therefore lives under some protection.

His view of his father is of an appeaser, not the quiet pragmatist he is in actuality. Michiel's view of the world is one-dimensional, but as he gains experience, Michiel finds out that appearance often is not reality -- which is a key to his growing up.

When a German soldier acts decently and heroically, it bewilders him. The enemy is evil, but it also can be human. His neighbor is a collaborator.

His sister Erica (Melody Klaver) does the unexpected. So does his uncle Ben (Yorick van Wageningen). So does his father.

And so, too, does Michiel.

When Michiel discovers a wounded RAF pilot (Jamie Campbell Bower), he becomes involved in a world of truths, half-truths, and deceit. He has to deal with an adult world.

Will he endure, prevail, or succumb?

Three writers are credited with collaborating on the screenplay -- director Martin Koolhoven, Paul Jan Nelissen, and Mieke de Jong. Koohoven directs ably.

Winter in Wartime is full of symbols -- a watch, a smashed snowman, doors, a horse, bicycles, a bridge. These symbols give a depth and texture to Michiel's fateful journey.


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