Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Mar 01st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Children's Crusade

filmm_winter'Winter in Wartime' manages to create a conscientious coming-of-age drama

When most of us think of a coming-of-age drama set in Nazi- occupied Holland, our thoughts stray to the standard-bearer of the genre, “The Diary of Anne Frank.” We think of Anne growing up in her attic and the stoic resolve of the Dutch family who hid the Franks, that delicate dance of fear, poise, and patience, as the ultimate in wartime courage. Dutch filmmaker Martin Koolhoven opts for a more active, thriller-type boy's own adventure in Winter In Wartime. It covers some of the same thematic territory as Anne Frank: youth impatient to grow up, and the struggle to establish a moral imperative within a labyrinth of complex political realities. It's not always as profound or effective in all it tries to say, but it's a conscientious effort to portray the true wages of warfare on the human psyche.

The film is adapted from the 1976 YA novel by Jan Terlouw, which may account for its occasionally breathless narrative. Things begin literally with a bang, a streak of flame across the night sky as an RAF fighter jet crashes into a forest behind a small Dutch town on a January night in 1945. The next day, 14-year-old Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) and his buddy from next door bike out to the crash site, and dodge the German guards posted around the wreckage to grab some souvenirs—a watch, a pair of goggles, a severed rubber tube.

Michiel gets caught by the German soldiers, only to be bailed out by his father, Johan (Raymond Thiry), the mayor. Michiel doesn't appreciate how desperately his conflicted father labors to stay on good terms with the hated Nazis; his primary goal is to see that "everyone gets through the war safe." To the boy, his father's cordiality to the Nazis seems like weakness, cowardice, and betrayal. Much more to Michiel's taste is his beloved Uncle Ben (Yorick van Wageningen), who pops in for a visit with a trunk full of scarce ration books, Resistance literature, and a wireless set for tuning in Allied radio broadcasts.

While Uncle Ben warns him not to get involved in anything to do with the war, Michiel wants to strike a blow against the Germans. He gets his chance when through a series of plans gone awry, he discovers the downed RAF pilot, Jack (Jamie Campbell Bower), hiding out in a bunker under the snow. Deciding against telling his collaborationist father or endangering his uncle with the knowledge, Michiel assumes responsibility for protecting Jack and helping to smuggle him out to friends across the river—setting off a chain of events that creates a suspense narrative in counterpoint to the parallel story of Michiel trying to navigate the adult world and earn his place among the grown-ups.

Filmmaker Koolhoven makes cogent points about coming of age in wartime without beating us over the head with them. We're allowed to ponder that Jack is scarcely any older than Michiel, although fighting for his life in a foreign land. Coming home after his first encounter with Jack, Michiel can't help grinning over his delicious secret; when he's forced to let his sister, Erica (Melody Klaver), a nurse, in on the plan, the siblings bicker over Jack as if he were a favorite pet. As the stakes grow more deadly, Michiel is constantly challenged to rethink his assumptions in an increasingly complex situation, from the young Nazi soldier who risks his own life to save Michiel after an accident, to Michiel's unfolding relationship with his father.

The film is most effective in limning these often quietly resonant personal relationships. The suspense plot is ticked off with brisk efficiency as well, although it suffers in the long run from piling on a few too many damn things after another. At some point, the film loses its sense of urgency over all these close calls, twists, and diversions; they become so many obstacles in getting to the expected finale, which feels less profound and less consequential than it should. Still, the film makes anfilm_winter honest attempt to explore the psychology of wartime, and the acting is heartfelt, particularly coltish young Lakemeier and Thiry in their delicate father-son drama.

WINTER IN WARTIME

★★1/2 (out of four) Watch film trailer >>>

With Martijn Lakemeier, Raymond Thiry, Yorick van Wageningen, and Jamie Campbell Bower. Written by Mieke de Jong, Martin Koolhoven and Paul Jan Nelissen. From the novel by Jan Terlouw. Directed by Martin Koolhoven. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Rated R. 103 minutes. In German and Dutch with English subtitles.

Opens April 29 at The Nick.

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Green Swell

Local surfboard company greens up the industry with an eco-conscious business model

 

Two Fish Bound by a Golden Cord

Until March 20, (Spring Equinox), Earth and her kingdoms (mineral, plant, animal, human) experience the influence of Pisces, sign of the World Savior. Whereas the task of Aquarius is as world server, the Pisces task is saving the world—tasks given to the two fishes. Pisces never really enters matter, and as the last sign of the zodiac includes all the signs. During Pisces, having gathered all the gifts of the previous 11 signs, it is a good time to prepare for new initiating plans when Aries (sign of beginnings) begins. No wonder Pisces, like Scorpio, is so difficult (both are ruled by Pluto, planet of death, new life, regeneration, transformations). Both signs (with Scorpio drowning in dark and deep waters) find life on Earth a hardship, disorienting (from the spiritual perspective), at times feeling betrayed. Life is a paradox, especially for Pisces. Each zodiacal sign represents and distributes a different phase and facet (12) of the Soul’s diamond light, Pisces is the “Light of Life itself, ending forever the darkness of matter.” It takes two fish to complete this work (creating eventually an extraordinary human being). One fish turned toward the material world (in order to understand matter), the other fish toward the heavenly world. Around the two fish is a silvery cord binding them together. The two fish are forever bound until all of humanity is redeemed (lifted up into the Light). This is the dedication of all world saviors (Buddha, Christ, the NGWS). Thus the sacrifice and suffering experienced by Pisces. Knowing these things about Pisces, let us help them all we can. Sometimes all of humanity is Pisces.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Seal Change

Celtic selkie lore comes alive in dazzling ‘Song of the Sea’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Teresa’s Gourmet Foods

New owners for Santa Cruz’s leading local salsa company

 

What defines a good dive bar?

It’s slightly dirty, and they serve cheap drinks. Stella Celeste, Santa Cruz, Barrista

 

Picchetti Winery

After enjoying its contents, I couldn’t throw away the empty bottle of Picchetti Winery’s Red Table Wine.

 

Happy Birthday, Manny

Manuel’s turns 50, farmers market steel head pairs with Pinot, and a Birichino Malvasia