Martijn Lakemeier in Winter in Wartime (Oorlogswinter)
In its native Netherlands, Winter in Wartime (Oorlogswinter) was one of the most successful films the year it was released. It sold more movie tickets than Twilight and Dark Knight. It was The Netherlands official submission for best Foreign Film Academy Award consideration. Although it did not make the final nomination list, it still won several awards in it's native Netherlands.
In occupied Holland, January 1945, 14 year old Michiel quickly jumps into manhood. The film opens with Michiel waking in the middle of the night to see a British plane crashing into some distant woods. Michiel and a friend find the empty plane and play in it until the Germans chase them off. Michiel's friend's older brother is in the resistance, as are several other people in the small town.
After the members of the resistance movement are either killed or captured, Michiel finds himself the caretaker of the wounded British pilot, that unknown to Michiel, the resistance had been hiding out in a hidden shelter in the woods. Michiel's father is the mayor of the village and he often deals with the Nazi's, earning him the reputation of being a possible collaborator. His uncle Ben comes and goes mysteriously, but Michiel finds underground material in his suitcase. Jack tells Michiel to trust no one, leaving Michiel to decide who to trust and what to do next.
Winter in Wartime contains plenty of escapes and captures. People are shot at and people are killed. If the movie lacks anywhere it is that those tense scenes come and go quickly. This makes for perhaps a more realistic film, but also a slightly less exciting one. Martin Koolhoven does a great job, but he could have milked some scenes for more emotional response. One in particular though, see photo above, may break your heart.
Martijn Lakemeier does an astonishing job as Michiel. The film starts with Michiel being a playful kid, thrilled to simply explore the remains of a crashed plane with childish curiosity. As the movie progresses, covering only a couple of weeks time, he learns to shave, notices girls and kills someone. Most importantly, he learns that life is not always as clear cut as we may like. Martijn Lakemeier carries himself differently at the beginning of the film compared to at the end. It is a subtle, yet effective performance.
The only cast member American audiences may recognize is Jamie Campbell Bower as Jack. The London born actor has appeared in the Twilight films as well as the Oscar nominated Anonymous.
Winter in Wartime is brilliant and moving. It is one of the best and exciting coming of age stories I have ever seen. I highly recommend it!
Martijn Lakemeier in Winter in Wartime.
I agree that young Martijn Lakemeier does a wonderful job as Michiel. He carries the film with his performance and the range of emotions that flicker across his face over the course of the story are quite remarkable. The rest of the cast members also do good work but it is this central role that makes the movie memorable.
The plot, however, is far from original. There have been so many coming-of-age WWII movies that it is practically a genre unto itself. Although most of them show the child as merely an observer of the carnage of war while Michiel gets involved in the actual hostilities. As Eric wrote, he grows from boy to man in a few short weeks.
The story unfolds believably. The action never goes beyond the realm of reality. Perhaps this is because it was based on the semi-autobiographical novel written by Jan Terlouw who spent five years living under Naiz occupied Holland as a boy and later served as the Dutch deputy Prime Minister.
At any rate the story is moving and realistic and builds to a nice climax where Michiel must face some painful truths about just who is on which side in the war. There is a tense scene at the end involving an escape across a bridge that is superbly filmed. It is here that Michiel must perform his most difficult deed on his shortcut to manhood.
The cinematography is very nice, although the color palette is rather blue and orange. Also the dialogue is a bit hard to follow in the scenes where Michiel and the British soldier speak English. The musical score is quite nice. Overall Winter in Wartime is a gripping and emotionally powerful movie that tells a variation on a story that has been done many times before.
Jamie Campbell Bower and Melody Klaver in Winter in Wartime.
We can all agree that Martijn Lakemeier does a great job in the lead role as Michiel. Part of what's great about his performance is that while it is a coming of age story, it doesn't over exaggerate the transition. He is forced to make adult choices, but he still behaves in many ways as a child, as with his pouting reaction to his sister's relationship with Jack. In the final scene though, when he is spinning the tubing with his friend, the difference between them, due to the things that Michiel has gone through, is marked.
Overall though, I was less impressed with this movie than my brothers. It's very slow paced, for one thing. There are moments of silence that seem to drag on an on. The threadbare plot is stretched quite thin at an hour and forty-five minutes, which I know isn't that long, but there's really only enough plot for about an hour.
The twist ending also wasn't very twisty. It was telegraphed quite blatantly from the very beginning. Seeing the end coming may also have contributed to my feeling that the movie dragged on for longer than necessary.
Not that there aren't some good moments, because there are. There are several quite tense scenes as Michiel tries to get Jack across the river. And the scene with his father is quite moving. These scenes are all just too far apart.
With a tighter editing job I could really have enjoyed this movie, but with the slow pacing I found my attention drifting far too often.
Photos © Copyright Isabella Films B.V. (2008)