Sony Pictures Classics | Release Date: March 18, 2011
Generally favorable reviews based on 12 Ratings
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ShiiraAug 12, 2011
This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. This thing called life, it can be a raw deal, but you're young only once, so the childhood that fate hands you, even if its place and time leaves something to be desired, like say, most of Europe during WWII, kept under siege by the Nazis, gives you no other choice but to adapt, persevere, and outvie the specter of death hanging over you and your loved ones through sheer will, or better yet, unfettered ignorance, which can be chalked up to youth. Germany's legacy and shame, the Holocaust, unduly represented in a filmography that accounts for the six million dead, mostly from well-noted reservoirs such as Poland, France and Hungary, always seems to have room for more horror stories(the latest addition to the canon being Lajos Koltai's "Fateless"). The plight of the Netherlands(Paul Verhoeven's "Black Book", notwithstanding), however, has largely been underdocumented, until now, since "Winter in Wartime", told from a child's-eye view, makes it known that the Nazi war machine really got around. Adolph Hitler hated the Dutch too, enough to kill 250,000 of them("only" 104,000 victims were of Jewish ancestry) during the occupation(1940-1945). Like the boy in John Boorman's "Hope and Glory", whose London suburbs get bombed on a nightly basis, nothing fazes Michiel(Matijn Lakemeier) anymore either, not even the sight of a plane in flames descending from the night sky and the ensuing crash just beyond the woods. In fact, Michiel is thrilled(likewise, Bill cavorts excitedly among the neighborhood ruins via the "fireworks" provided by the German blitzkrieg) because he knows his plans are set for the next day. The boy and a neighbor will inspect the wreckage and come away with a souvenir or two unscathed. It'll be a lark. Although Michiel professes a disdain for the friendly terms his father maintains with the Nazis, he is not about taking full advantage of the privileges that come with being the mayor's son. Albeit not a Jew, or even necessarily a Jew sympathizer(what the boy knows about the "Final Solution" is never made explicit), a Dutch boy could easily be shot by a Nazi soldier for poking his nose where it shouldn't be. Michiel, however, knows that he has the run of the place, displaying not even the slightest modicum of fear about being killed. When the interlopers are discovered, the boys run away, laughing, not catching the inscrutable look on a soldier's face as they disappear into the thick of the forest. With the Nazis in lukewarm pursuit, the boys(anarchic and oblivious to the significance of being chased), pedal against a flow of downtrodden people who better understand that it's not the time for fun and games. After a nasty spill, Michiel gets the reminder that he needs, as the boy looks up at a German soldier, who would shoot him on the spot if his father wasn't somebody in this town. Called in for questioning, the inquisitor knows that Michiel had an accomplice, but the SS officer forgoes giving him the third degree, despite the numerous eyewitnesses which would lay waste to the boy's fallacious claim about being alone. It's with this feeling of untouchability that the boy, in his capacity as a resistance movement neophyte, goes to the wounded RAF soldier in broad daylight, trudging through the blinding white snow(along with his sister, a nurse) without taking any precautions against detection. It's a game to him. Rather than sticking to the main road, Michiel detours onto the frozen river, riding parallel to the pedestrians, alone, conveying a perception of superiority, as if he too, on some unconscious level, has become a Nazi sympathizer, because visually, the boy relegates his fellow countrymen to the background, treating them like riff-raff, in which their miniaturization renders them faceless and insignificant. When Michiel falls through the ice, he is pulled out of the frigid waters by a soldier, whose digits, locked with the boy's own tactile members, looks akin to a handshake, causing in the accidental resistance fighter, a bout of self-realization to the ice's thinness that he'd been "skating" on all along. Only then does the adventurer realize that helping Jack has political ramifications with far-reaching effects, reverberating all the way back to Poland. Still, in "Winter in Wartime", it's not the Jews who suffer, but rather, it's the collaborator's son, when Johan(Raymond Thiry), despite being apolitical, dies like a Semite by firing squad. Notably, the filmmaker turns the Jewish people into a secret. Apparently, the Dutch townsfolk hid them so well, "Winter in Wartime" forgets that they exist. Pure and simple, this narrative is about the Dutch, which is good and fine, since it doesn't upstage the Jews' own narrative, unlike the well-meaning, but problematic "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas", where the saddest fate of all belongs to a concentration camp commandant whose own son accidentally perishes in a crematorium. Expand
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