Winter in Wartime [Blu-Ray] Martin Koolhoven

Winter in Wartime [Blu-Ray] Martin Koolhoven
Despite a couple of stabs at heightened melodrama, wherein slow motion imagery and a crescendo score guide, and force, our feelings, Winter in Wartime is far more ambiguous and dignified than most titles in the WWII oeuvre, obviously capturing the horror of it all, but without the same sanctimonious heroism and solipsism that often accompany it. Instead, we view the occupation of rural Netherlands in 1945 through the eyes of a boy coming-of-age, whose behaviours and motives are naive without bridging the divide to standard saccharine ignorance. Fourteen-year-old Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) lacks the mortal knowledge and perspective to appreciate the surrounding threat, playing war games with friends around a crash site and finding the various soldiers more annoying than foreboding. And since this story juxtaposes the horrors of reality forcing maturity against less than savoury Nazism, it isn't long before Michiel starts to learn of double-alliances, deceptions and victimization from the very people he blindly trusts. With greys and tans washed out by the white winter surroundings, Martin Koolhoven directs with a sturdy hand that rarely embellishes beyond the gradual maturation of our young protagonist. We, as the audience, understand what's going on politically, but are never given full disclosure while under the veil of Michiel's ignorance. Resultantly, substantial tension comes from our existing knowledge of what's likely to come, which is boosted by Koolhoven's knack for constructing kinetic action sequences. And while there is obviously a slant as to what is "right," the morality is more ambiguous than usual, as German soldiers will, on occasion, help out characters and respond with some kindness. It acknowledges that most of these boys were doing what was expected of them socially, which is a far more challenging and interesting perspective than blanket vilification. Included with the Blu-Ray is a "Making of," which is of the standard European variety, featuring excess behind-the-scenes footage and interviews that actually talk about theme and didactics rather than prattling on about how brilliant and wonderful everyone is. (Sony)