LITTLE ROCK Beautifully photographed, well acted and moderately involving, Martin Koolhoven’s Winter in Wartime is an above-average melodrama about a 13-year-old Dutch boy Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) living in occupied territory who, in the final months of World War II, is drawn into the resistance movement.
The source material is a 1972 children’s novel (Oorlogswinter) by Jan Terlouw, but Koolhoven seems tohave aimed the film at an adult audience while retaining the early adolescent point-of-view. The result isa naive story that has some of the dreamy qualities of a remembered myth - Michiel hasn’t access to all the details and adult complications of his situation, he isn’t fully aware of the implications of his actions. There is a certain clarity of purpose - a lack of moral confusion - in Michiel that adults will perceive as naive or innocent - and which feels odd in an R-rated film. (But don’t blame Koolhoven for that; blame the weird, literal-minded rating matrix of the Motion Picture Association of America.
Despite the rating, this would be a good movie for teens and young adults.)
The movie opens with Michiel watching from his bedroom window as a British fighter plane goes down in the snowy woods near his village. Michiel is deeply ashamed of his father (Raymond Thiry), the collaborationist mayor of the village, and is enthralled by the exploits of his dashing uncle (Yorick van Wageningen), a leader of the Resistance. Between these poles, the rest of Michiel’s family and village are strung - it’simpossible to know exactly who is a Nazi informer, who is a secret Resistance fighter and who is just trying to keep his head down and get through the day. But Michiel cannot imagine not taking sides.
When he has the chance to help the wounded Royal Air Force pilot (Jamie Campbell Bower) escape Nazi territory, Michiel doesn’t hesitate to undertake his undercover mission.
But though it contains a few suspenseful moments - especially in its third act- Winter in Wartime is more a coming-of-age story than an action film. While it spends little time dithering the wellmarked boundaries between good and evil, it does allow for ambiguity in the case of individuals. These German soldiers are not Nazi caricatures; they are dangerous, their cause is perverse, but they are nonetheless identifiably human.
And the subtlest point made by this deliberately unsubtle film is that the pilot Michiel helps is barely older than a child himself.
Winter in Wartime 86 Cast: Martijn Lakemeier, Jamie Campbell Bower, Yorick van Wageningen, Raymond Thiry Director: Martin Koolhoven Rating: R, for language, a sex scene and violence Running time: 103 minutes In Dutch, English and German, with English subtitles
MovieStyle, Pages 38 on 05/27/2011
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