Published on May 24th, 2010 | by Chris0
Winter in Wartime / Oorlogswinter (2008)
Making its appearance on this side of the pond on 5/31 (Blu Ray and DVD) is Winter in Wartime (or Oorlogswinter). A Dutch film that explores what happens to a young boy who is dragged into the war quite by accident, to quite tragic, and triumphant results.
Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) witnesses a plane crash one night. Being as this is Holland in the cold of winter, January, 1945, its probably not the first time its happened. He and his friend nearly get into hot water when the Germans find them pilfering the wreckage.
Then the friend's older brother gives him a note. "Deliver this if I don't make it back." And then it starts. One event leads to another, then to another, then another. Until he finds himself helping a downed RAF pilot, much against the wishes of his father, and his resistance-fighter uncle Ben. He also gets his sister involved against better judgment.
Speaking of Michiel's father, actor Raymond Thiery manages to extract one great performance as the father/mayor trying to keep his family and his town together under the Nazi shadow. The way he exudes this weight-on-his-shoulders is on the surface, maybe a little shallow, but as time goes on you start to understand....
I'll leave the unfortunate twist ending and inevitable tragedies out of this (no spoilers here!) But suffice it to say this is quite a moving story about a boy being forced to grow up before his time, in the middle of a terrible war.
Not only that, its a story of doing what you need to do in order to survive. Even if that means appearing to submit to the enemy, or in fact, appearing *not* to when in fact you are.... The father (who happens to be the town mayor) and the neighbor, both of which are shown to be capitulating to the Nazi's, to varying degrees, and for different reasons. How much I leave it up to you to decide.
Everyone's performances are well acted. I can't say anyone really stood out as being "that guy" who should have stayed home. Maybe Jack the RAF Pilot (Jamie Campbell Bower) was a tad weak. But then I didn't think much of him in the recent remake of "The Prisoner" either, not sure why.
Production-wise, though, is where "Winter" really shines. The entire environment is bleak and depressing. From the stark white of the winter landscape, to the drab decor of the period-dressed towns and homes, everything just puts you in "that place" you need to be to enjoy the film. "Enjoy" is probably not the right word. "Experience" might be better. The entire thing is just uncomfortable enough to make it excellent.
The "experience" of the final winter-time scene (no spoilers here!) though, is enough to make you think. What would you have done? Could you have done what Michiel did?
Winter in Wartime is produced by Martin Koolhoven, the same guy behind "Black Book," an equally bleak and brutally frank look at the Dutch resistance during the war. The two stories aren't directly related (that I see) but both can't be missed.
And yes, folks, its in Dutch with smatterings of German throughout, just a heads up.
Summary: From the stark white of the winter landscape, to the drab decor of the period-dressed towns and homes, everything just puts you in "that place" you need to be to enjoy the film. "Enjoy" is probably not the right word. "Experience" might be better. The entire thing is just uncomfortable enough to make it excellent.