Winter in Wartime (R13)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/02/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 103 mins

Enjoyable, well acted and emotionally engaging wartime coming-of-age drama with striking photography and strong performances.

What's it all about?
Directed by Martin Koolhoven, Winter in Wartime (Oorlogswinter, Original title fans) is set in 1945, in a Nazi-occupied town near Zwolle, in Holland, where a young teenage boy, Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier), finds his loyalties torn between his Nazi-placating father (Raymond Thiry), the mayor of the town, and his uncle Ben (Yorick van Wageninen), a resistance fighter. However, Michiel is suddenly forced to pick a side when he stumbles across a wounded British soldier (Jamie Campbell Bower as Jack) in the woods.

Reluctantly enlisting the help of his sister, Erica (Melody Klaver), Michiel nurses Jack back to health and they set about helping him evade capture. However, when the Nazis discover the body of a man Jack shot, they round up a number of villagers (including Michiel's father) and threaten to execute them unless the culprit is found.

The Good
The film is based on a 1972 children's novel and the story takes place almost entirely from Michiel's point-of-view, which works well. As a result, there are several scenes where we don't hear the dialogue and, like Michiel, have to piece together what's going on.

The performances are excellent, particularly young Lakemeier, whose interactions with the various characters are constantly intriguing, whether he's sniping at his sister, hero-worshipping his uncle, acting grown-up around Jack or goofing around with his best friend (Jesse van Driel). There's also strong support from Thiry and van Wageninen, while Campbell Bower and Klaver do a good job of conveying their attraction through body language and glances (since they don't want to say anything in front of Michiel).

The Great
The film is beautifully shot, with Guido van Gennep's cinematography making the most of the gorgeous snowy landscapes. In addition, Koolhoven maintains a decent pace (Michiel is constantly on the move, whether running, cycling or riding a horse) and there are several great scenes, including an exciting chase sequence and a heart-stopping race-against-time moment.

That said, the film is not without flaws, such as the fact that the Nazis appear to be lumbered with the world's worst sniffer dogs and are incapable of following the tracks of a man in the snow.

Worth seeing?
Winter in Wartime is an enjoyable, emotionally engaging coming-of-age drama with a terrific central performance from Lakemeier. Recommended.

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Content updated: 20/05/2019 20:11

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