Winter in Wartime is one of those truly well-crafted motion pictures that rarely get made in today’s dismal movie climate. It is a taut human drama that focuses heavily on the plight of vulnerable and emotional people. Winner of numerous well-deserved awards such as the 2009 Netherlands Film Festival Golden Calf award, Winter in Wartimeis quite sensational and now yours to own in a special Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.
The story revolves around Michiel van Beusekom (Martijn Lakemeier), a 13-year-old boy living in Nazi-occupied Holland circa winter of 1945. He belongs to a typical Dutch family consisting of his parents and an older sister. His father Vader (Raymond Thiry) is a mayor who sucks up to the Nazis to ensure the safety of their village. The mother Moeder (Anneke Blok) is passive and content with her station in life and the sister Erica (Melody Klaver) is also rather blasé about everything that’s going on.
One night, a British military plane crash-lands in the woods killing one pilot while the other ejects to parachuted safety. The young pilot who survives, Jack (Jamie Campbell Bower) hides out in the snowy woods in a makeshift shelter. Eventually, Michiel discovers him while riding his bike in the area. They then form a friendly bond which is questionable during the turbulent time in which they are in.
Based on Jan Terlouw’s 1972 novel of the same name, Winter in Wartime has a very intriguing premise and the way the plot unfolds is really a thing of beauty. Many films today rely almost exclusively on special effects and over-the-top action which is truly sad but this film relies strongly on two very important things: the story and acting. The story is deeply thought-provoking and really concentrates on people and the hardships they face.
Full of actors who are relatively unknown, Winter in Wartime’s cast is absolutely astounding. Martijn Lakemeier is stellar as Michiel, the boy who must do battle with his conscience by keeping secrets and putting his family in jeopardy. Raymond Thiry plays Michiel’s father with heart and warmth however his obligations to the Nazi party test his morality. This creates a very tense and fascinating situation that affects everyone in his village especially his family.
Other members of the cast are also quite impressive such as Jamie Campbell Bower who plays soldier-in-hiding Jack. Even though he is in his early twenties, he certainly displayed a very wide range of emotion. From fear to happiness to love, he definitely proved his worth as an actor. Anneke Blok is quite good as Michiel’s mother showing how war doesn’t spoil the sweetness of the term “home sweet home”. Melody Klaver also gives a sincere and muted performance as Michiel’s older sister Erica who nurses Jack to health and forming a special fond of her own with the young soldier. Lastly, there is Yorick van Wageningen who plays Oom Ben, Michiel’s cool uncle who is part of the Nazi resistance and wants nothing but to ensure his nephew’s safety. His rugged portrayal of Michiel’s uncle Ben is really powerful and enjoyable to watch.
The setting of Winter in Wartime is bleak and unforgiving. Snow and ice cover the ground providing the audience with a very depressing metaphor. That metaphor of course is that the cold and harsh terrain is a reflection of the Nazis’ tyrannical rule over the people. Author Jan Terlouw and director Martin Koolhoven have definitely painted a very vivid picture here, one that makes an honest statement about humanity and how evil corrodes the human spirit.
Winter in Wartime is sure to tug at your heartstrings. It is a beautiful film that will leave you breathless. I honestly don’t come across many movies like this and I am quite saddened by this. If you want to enjoy 103 minutes of pure, raw and unbridled emotion, then this is the film for you. Winter in Wartime is just sublime.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
The bonus features for Winter in Wartime are average at best. There is a behind-the-scenes making of documentary plus a slew of trailers many of which are from Sony Pictures Classics.