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Winter in Wartime (9/10)

by Tony Medley

Run Time 103 minutes.

OK for children.

Dutch author Jan Terlouw spent five years of his life with his country occupied by the Nazis and his father, a vicar, was arrested several times and threatened with execution. He turned this into an autobiographical novel, Winter in Wartime in 1972. Director Martin Koolhoven wrote the script with Paul Jan Nelissen and Mieke de Jong and turned it into his seventh feature film.

14-year-old Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier, who had only recently joined a Rotterdam youth theater group and been acting for only two months) starts the film as a relatively carefree young teenager using the war as a plaything. But things get serious when he discovers a downed British flyer, Jack (Jamie Campbell Bower), who is hiding from the Nazis. Michiel involves his sister Erica (Melody Klaver), a nurse, which leads to further complications.

Especially touching is the relationship between Michiel and his father, Raymond Thiry (Johan Van Beusekom). Raymond is the Mayor of their small village and Michiel shows him little respect. But Raymond is going through more than young Michiel imagines. There is a poignant scene in which Raymond shows Michiel how to shave. Considering what happens in the rest of the movie, this scene becomes particularly moving. Yorick van Wageningen gives a believable performance as Michiel’s Uncle Ben, a father-figure upon whom Michiel comes to rely and look up to since he has developed little respect for his father, whom he feels is toadying up to the Nazis.

Shot on location in Lithuania because eastern Lithuania, at the Russian border, the snow and the landscape look like Holland, Terlouw said, “It was true to life and very emotional.”  This is a suspenseful coming of age story with fine performances and ambience showing how war can affect ordinary lives. In Dutch/English/German.