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April 28, 2011 - Image 71

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-04-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

For All Special Occasions!

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puts a
boy in an
unforgiving
spot.

A scene fro m Winter in Wartime

No Place For Children

George Rob inson
Special to th e Jewish News

I

n the 1960s there was a popular
poster and bumper sticker that
proclaimed, "War Is Not Healthy
for Children and Other Living Things."
Political repression isn't good for them
either. Those are the messages carried
by Winter in Wartime, a new film from
the Netherlands opening April 29.
The poster's sentiment always
struck me as simplistic, albeit true.
Unfortunately, Winter in Wartime,
directed by the veteran Dutch film-
maker Martin Koolhoven and adapted
from a popular young-adult novel by
Jan Terlouw, is often as pat as a bum-
per sticker.
The film is set in January 1945. The
Germans have all but lost the war, but
the occupation of the Netherlands
seems as sternly administered as ever
in a village near Zwolle. The mayor,
Johan van Beusekom (Raymond
Thiry) struggles to maintain a n eu-
tral stance toward the Germans, but
his 14-year-old son Michiel (Mart ijn
Lakemeier) is itching to do some thing
for the underground like his belove d
uncle Ben (Yorick van Wageningen)
Then fate offers the boy an oppor-
tunity that carries repercussions
far beyond his juvenile imaginings.
Through a series of events he finds
himself the sole person aware of the
existence of Jack, a downed RAF flier
(Jamie Campbell Bower), who is hid-
ing in the nearby woods.
Everything hinges on how Michiel
comports himself. He is understand-
ably reluctant to involve anyone else in
events but must find someone he can
rely on when the Englishman's wound
become dangerously infected. Then
the Germans discover the corpse of

one of their soldiers, shot earlier by
Jack, and assume a local killed him.
They take hostages, including Johan,
and the moral stakes become as seem-
ingly fraught as the plot.
Koolhoven sets up this situation
deftly. He is strong on background
detail: the roads constantly filled with
refugees traveling back and forth with
no apparent destination ahead; the
dark, cold, wintery woods surround-
ing the village; the sheer drabness of
the town itself.
Taken purely as a suspense film.,
Winter in Wartime is workmanlike,
if a bit overwrought. The film is also
clever and observant in the depic-
tion of Michiel, his motivations seen
as a mixture of admirable concern
and childish war game. In particular,
his seething resentment when Jack
becomes involved with Michiel's sis-
ter Erica (Melody Klaver) is nicely
observed.
There also are moments that sug-
gest a world in which everyone is a bit
compromised — the most effective
of them being the discovery that the
town's most ardent Nazi sympathizer
is hiding a young Jewish girl and her
mother.
But the moral and emotional com-
plexities of the situation are too often
pushed aside for the nuts-and-bolts
elements of the plot, and a big plot
twist toward the end stretches creduli-
ty. The result is painless to sit through
but a lost opportunity. I I

Winter in Wartime is scheduled

to open Friday, April 29, at the
Maple Theatre in Bloomfield
Township. (248) 263-2111 or
www.landmarktheatres.com .

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April 28

2011

43

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