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Definition of Heroism
gradyharp28 September 2011
WINTER IN WARTIME (Oorlogswinter) is a stunning and intensely involving film that explores the damages war inflicts on all those involved. It is based on the life of Dutch author Jan Terlouw whose novel by the same name reflects the fact that the author spent five harrowing years under Nazi occupation of Holland in WW II: it has been sensitively and successfully adapted for the screen by Mieke de Jong, Paul Jan Nelissen and writer/director Martin Koolhoven. The title of the film commands every aspect of the story - the colors of a nearly black and white cinematography, the cold atmosphere that intensifies the desperation of war and of coming of age and the bleak aftermath of a war torn country.

The time is January 1945. Michiel Van Beusekom (and impressive debut by Martijn Lakemeier) is 13 years old, facing the usual stresses of coming of age accentuated by the fact that his village is occupied by Nazi soldiers. Michiel's father Johan (Raymond Thiry) is the town's Bürgermeister (mayor) and attempts to pacify the Nazis whenever possible to protect his town - a fact that Michiel finds disgusting, as though his father was a Nazi sympathizer. Despite this disparity in viewing the atmosphere in the town, Michiel and Johan have a tender relationship as well. There is a crash of a British RAF plane just outside the town and Michiel and his friends inspect the plane, taking souvenirs, and then finding that the pilot Jack (Jamie Campbell Bower - now King Arthur in the television series Camelot) survived but is wounded. Michiel and Jack become friends and Michiel brings his sister Erica (Melody Klaver) who is a nurse to tend to the leg wound Jack incurred as he parachuted to safety. Erica and Jack form a relationship beyond nurse/patient status and Jack gives Michiel a package that is to be sent to England.

In the midst of the action Michiel's favorite uncle Ben (Yorick van Wageningen) arrives and moves in with the family: he is apparently hiding from the Nazis and becomes Michiel's confidant in his care of the British pilot. Michiel thus becomes a part of the resistance movement and when the Nazis discover a dead comrade (a Nazi killed by Jack when he crashed landed) they intensify their search for traitors. Michiel works to help Jack escape, but someone must pay for the death of a Nazi soldier and it is the revelation of the family's surprising response that brings the film to a nail-biting close. The secrets of who is honest and who is a traitor become apparent. Michiel has become the hero of the story but at a very high price - the price of human conflict that war demands and receives.

The cast is thoroughly solid and it is refreshing to note that the humanistic sides of both the Dutch villagers and the Nazi occupiers are made evident instead of the usual bad guy/good guy stereotypes. This is another fine movie about WW II and the effects of that heinous time on the youth who survived it. Highly recommended. In Dutch and German and English with English subtitles.

Grady Harp
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Outstanding coming of age film from Holland
Red-12518 July 2011
The Dutch film "Oorlogswinter" was shown in the United States with the title "Winter in Wartime" (2008). It was co-written and directed by Martin Koolhoven.

The movie stars Martijn Lakemeier as Michiel, a teenager whose father is the mayor of the town in which the family lives. World War II is coming to an end, but the Germans are still firmly in control of the area.

Martin's father is not truly a collaborator with the Germans, but he has established cordial relations with them in order to spare the town and its inhabitants from destruction. Michiel's uncle, Oom Ben, is in the Dutch resistance.

The plot moves forward rapidly after Michiel discovers a wounded British airman, Jack (Jamie Campbell Bower). Michiel is caught up in a swirl of hazardous, terrifying incidents.

"Oorlogswinter" is a coming-of-age film, but it's also much more. Director Koolhoven has captured the bleakness of the Dutch winter landscape, and the attempt by Michiel's family to maintain a semblance of normality in the face of ever-present danger.

The German soldiers aren't presented as unremittingly evil, nor are the Dutch citizens presented as noble in every respect. Nonetheless, good and evil clearly exist in the world and in this film. Who chooses good, and who chooses evil, is at the heart of the movie.

"Winter in Wartime" is an outstanding film. I believe it is underrated with an IMDb rating of 7.1. I suggest you seek it out and watch it. If it's not commercially released in your area, it will work well on DVD.
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A young boy is forced to grow up quickly...
planktonrules6 November 2011
14 year-old Michiel lives in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation in the latter part of WWII. Although he's still only a kid, he happens upon a downed British flier and bravely decides to help him--even though the expedient thing would have been to stay out of this. To complicate things, Michiel's father is the local mayor--and a man who has long tried to appease his Nazi overlords. What is the boy to do?

The film is excellent in every way. Martijn Lakemeier did a great job in the leading role and the film was a quality production throughout. I also appreciated it because the film was very difficult to predict. Sure, you know the Nazis would lose and the war would be over in only a few months--but there were so many twists and turns in the film that it kept me guessing. It helped that this was not a 'happily ever after' sort of family film but a gritty one that was about a boy who needed to grow up very, very fast and make some very adult things. Well worth seeing and a decent film for the family despite its R-rating.
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An involving story, well acted, and confidently directed
howard.schumann17 April 2011
Based on the autobiographical novel by Dutch author Jan Terlouw who spent five grim years under Nazi occupation and was arrested several times, Martin Koolhoven's Winter in Wartime is the coming-of-age story of a teenager who becomes involved with the Resistance when he helps a wounded RAF soldier hiding from the Germans. Written by Paul Jan Nelissen and Mieke de Jong and set in January 1945 in a small town in Holland (but filmed in Lithuania), the film is seen from the perspective of 13-year-old Michiel who, in addition to dealing with the normal problems of a teenager, must handle his complex feelings towards his father, the town's mayor, euphemistically called a "neutral" or, more directly, a Nazi collaborator. Michiel is played by Martijn Lakemeier who, despite having acted for only two months prior to the film, does a highly creditable job playing the bright but naïve teen.

Though his father, Raymond Thiry (Johan Van Beusekom) has the wounded look of someone just caught stealing, he loves his son and the scene where he teaches him how to shave is genuine and quite touching, though Michiel has little respect for his dad's cozy relationship with the German occupiers. The story becomes more involved when Michiel's Uncle Ben (Yorick van Wageningen) shows up and assumes the role of a mentor to the boy, a status abdicated by his father. Though Ben is protective of Michiel and tries to keep him from getting involved, the boy inadvertently becomes part of the resistance when he finds a British soldier, Jack (Jamie Campbell Bower), hiding in an underground bunker deep in the forest and brings him food and together plan his escape.

To add more tension, Michiel recruits his sister Erica (Melody Klaver), a nurse, to care for the wounded flier, a meeting that develops into a personal relationship. As the film moves to an unpredictable climax, it becomes challenging for Michiel to fully grasp where people's loyalties really lie, and this lesson is learned the hard way as part of his maturing process. Winter in Wartime avoids the usual Nazi stereotypes and presents the Germans as human beings, though Koolhoven's even-handedness becomes hard to swallow when "friendly" German soldiers stop to help Michiel and Jack repair the broken wheel of a horse-drawn carriage, not asking who they are or where they are going.

Though the film is set in occupied territory in the middle of a war, it lacks a gritty look and feel. Koolhoven makes choices that constantly undermine the film's realism such as Michiel running in slow motion towards a firing squad to try and prevent an execution and a lush musical background of soaring violins that does not seem appropriate to the circumstances. In spite of its flaws, Winter in Wartime is an involving story, well acted, and confidently directed. Though they will learn little about the full extent of Nazi brutality, the film should appeal to students seeking to better understand historical events they have only read about in history texts.
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A boy growing up in WW2
rick-22029 December 2008
Tense, yet restrained movie about a boy who discovers that war is more than just an exciting adventure.

When he finds the escaped pilot from a crashed British fighter plane, lead character Michiel's first emotion is one of excitement. Disappointed in his father's - the town mayor - seemingly lacking resistance towards the German occupation forces he guards his find like a coveted treasure.

It's his way to not only be part of the resistance but also to rebel against his father who does not want Michiel to get into any kind of trouble. Michiel wants to be like his live-in uncle Ben, who as a smuggler is more like his concept of a resistance hero.

The story obviously centers on Michiel's attempts to get the British pilot safely back to Britain, and this is presented in an exciting way with plenty of thrills and narrow escapes. At the same time the underlying theme of Michiel's growing up in extraordinary circumstances is just as interesting. The changes in his character, his motivations and his perception of the world around him are shown in a subtle and convincing way.

Good directing and generally fine acting help move the story along nicely, with both exciting action scenes and a realistic portrayal of 'normal' rural life during war time.

Director Martin Koolhoven successfully manages to balance all story elements and underlying themes in a movie that is both accessible as a straightforward adventure movie but offers some character driven themes as well.

Only minor criticisms are the dialogue which at times is difficult to understand (a common problem in Dutch movies) and the sometimes excessive use of hand-held cameras.
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A Distinctively Dutch War Movie
JackCerf21 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The Dutch had an ambivalent World War II experience, and movies like this one, Black Book, and Soldier of Orange reflect it. The Germans considered them junior Aryans and behaved "correctly" for the most part. There were a fair number of Dutch collaborators. The bureaucracy cooperated, and a much higher percentage of Jews got rounded up in Holland than in Belgium or France. If you weren't a Jew, weren't drafted to work in Germany, and kept your mouth shut, life went on pretty much normally until the Hunger Winter of 44-45, when food and fuel supplies dried up and things got very hard. The Dutch resistance movement was a fiasco; German military intelligence infiltrated, captured and doubled the agents the British parachuted in, and sent a steady stream of false messages to London. Because Holland was off the main Allied route into Germany, most of it wasn't liberated until weeks or days before the end of the war. Their movies tend to present the Dutch experience as mostly civilized middle class people trying to get by, making moral compromises, and not being very good at anything more belligerent or heroic.

The center of Winter in Wartime is Mikiel, a 13 year old in rural Overijssel province. His village is a backwater where the German checkpoint at the ferry marches off for a tea break at 3 p.m. every day, allowing people without papers to sneak across. The garrison commander is a fat, overage Captain, and his troops are boys barely out of high school. Mikiel's family are well to do, and his father is the mayor. One of their neighbors is apparently member of the NSB, the Dutch Nazi party.

Mikiel is a typical boy of his age: active, curious, and just at the point where his interest is beginning to shift from model airplanes to girls. He zips around on his bike, dodges chores, teases his older sister the nurse, loves the family's riding horse, is fascinated by anything to do with the war and loathes the Germans. With all the moral certainty of a 13 year old, he detests his father, who must deal with them every day. He idolizes his cool bachelor Uncle Ben, who has a beard, a twinkle in his eye, no apparent occupation and something to do with the resistance.

We meet Mikiel when he gets into some minor trouble; he's caught when he and his friend try to loot souvenirs from a newly crashed British bomber in the woods, and the German garrison commander releases him to his father. Because he's a boy and the mayor's son, he moves around untouched and unsuspected, so his best friend's older brother, who is involved in the resistance, gives him a message to carry. When the brother is captured and the intended recipient is killed resisting arrest, Mikiel opens the letter, follows it, and finds a British airman from the bomber being hidden in a dugout in the woods with a wounded leg. Jack, the airman, needs to get to a town where he's been told he'll find an escape contact.

Mikiel decides that he's going to take care of this all by himself; he'll bring two bikes and some civilian clothes, and when Jack is ready to travel in a few days they'll cross the ferry during the guards' tea break. In the meantime, he'll bring Jack food, hang out, do a little hero worshiping, enjoy his adventure, and feel like he's helping to win the war.

But what can go wrong does. The wound gets infected, Jack is too feverish to travel, and Mikiel has to bring his sister out to the woods and let her in on the secret. Within a few days, he finds himself in a very different movie than the one playing in his head -- he's now the Kid Brother in the picture about the Gallant British Pilot and the Pretty Dutch Nurse. He doesn't fully grasp what's going on, but he knows he's got a rival for Jack's attention, and he doesn't like it one bit. So he redoubles his efforts to make himself indispensable. Then things go even more wrong. There's a dead German out in the woods -- Jack had to shoot him to escape capture. The Germans find the body and take civilian hostages to shoot in retaliation for what they think is resistance activity. Mikiel finally realizes he's in over is head and calls in Uncle Ben.

There are plenty of exciting narrow scrapes and close calls, not all of which end well. Without giving anything away, I can say that Mikiel's father, his uncle, the pro-Nazi neighbor and the boy himself all turn out to have various qualities that he hasn't imagined. He loses a great deal, including his boyhood illusions, and when the day of liberation arrives he knows a lot more about life but doesn't feel much like celebrating. The peculiarly Dutch irony is that none of it was necessary. The war was almost over, Jack would have been a POW under the Geneva Convention, the liberators would get there sooner or later, and there was no reason for anyone to have stuck their neck out.

Every scene is from Mikiel's viewpoint. We see and hear only what he does, although we know a great deal more, both from historical hindsight and from adulthood. Unlike the similarly constructed Boy In Striped Pajamas, though, the script doesn't bludgeon us over the head. It sticks (with a few glitches) to the probable, and it trusts the audience to fill in what Mikiel is thinking and feeling from our own knowledge of life and of history. An American audience unfamiliar with the Dutch World War II experience will miss a good deal, and I'm sure I don't even know what fine points I might have missed. Definitely worth the two hours, though.
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one of the best foreign movies I have ever seen. Highly Recommended.
saadgkhan26 December 2010
WAR IN WINTERTIME – CATCH IT ( A ) War in wintertime is a gripping tale of a young boy "Martijn Lakemeier Aka Michiel", who accidentally becomes a part of resistance in Germany during the end of World War II. Michiel has to protect the British Soldier "Jamie Campbell Bower Aka Jack" who crashed in Germany and that's how the movie proceeds how he helps the Brit soldier by risking everything. The whole movie is extremely moving and gripping, it kept me on edge of my seat the whole time. Martijn Lakemeier was truly exceptional… his honest portrayal can be felt through the entire movie. I think, he has a great future ahead. I have heard a lot about Jamie Campbell Bower because of his small yet significant roles in Twilight Saga & Harry potter Deadly Hallows series but I have never saw his previous work, so while I was watching the movie I didn't knew that its Jamie Campbell Bower but then through IMDb I found out that its him… I was pleasantly surprised because he brought the utmost charm into his role and no wonder he is becoming one of the most promising British young lads in Hollywood. Melody Klaver as Michiel's Sister and Jake's love interest was compelling. All the other actors did their parts really well. The direction & cinematography of the movie is truly remarkable. I think it's also one of the best foreign movies I have ever seen. Highly Recommended.
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Surpassed my expectations of it.
Boba_Fett11389 August 2011
This has always been a movie I expected to like but never one I expected to love. I don't know, the movie always seemed a bit too low-budget and narrow with its story, characters and settings and overdone with its drama and action. Dutch movies tend to be told a but clumsily at times, especially when its also involving some action. Most Dutch film-makers really don't know how to handle action but luckily Martin Koolhoven isn't a director who suffers from this and he also really got almost all of the other stuff right as well.

It's really one great and slick looking movie. It has got a great visual style, that it manages to maintain throughout its entire running time. Looking at this movie you really wouldn't think that it only cost a few millions to make, which really isn't a lot of money in the movie business, not even for a Dutch movie of this size and caliber. They really did an excellent job with its budget and besides its visual look, it also convincingly takes you back to 1945 wartime- and winter struck Holland. Director Martin Koolhoven even subtly managed to put in his love for spaghetti westerns in this movie (which is probably also the reason why it stars Dan van Husen in it) with some of the sequences and camera-work, without it being obvious or distracting for the casual viewer.

And the movie does really feature some great camera-work by Guido van Gennep, that doesn't only just capture the mood and atmosphere of the movie well but also makes the movie more dynamic with its movements and set-up. Same can be said for the nimble editing by Job ter Burg, which doesn't prevent the movie from having some pacing issues in it though.

But guess you could really 'blame' the fact that this movie is based on a novel for that. The story doesn't always flow well or moves along fast enough and it has some characters that more or less get neglected, as the movie moves along. This is all because it's based on a popular and well known novel by Jan Terlouw, which is 164 pages long and of course features way too much stuff to all effectively put into one movie. This is something basically all movies based off on novels suffer from, so you can't really blame the film-makers, though I still wished they would had treated some of its characters better and more interestingly. Such as for instance the Schafter and Auer characters, that had far more potential in them and could had really added something more to the story, its themes and the depth of it all.

But that are about the only things that could had potentially made this movie an even better one, fore it does basically everything else right.

It's not just a typical Dutch movie that is involving WW II. It's more one that is somewhere between a serious and heavy drama as well as a tense and engrossing one, in a more thriller kind of way. What the movie also does well is appealing to both a younger and older crowd. This isn't specifically just a movie kids or adults, it's one for all ages.

But the movie still could not had worked out as well as it did, if it weren't for its cast. For this movie it was very important that they had a good young main lead in it and with Martijn Lakemeier they really succeeded with this. But basically everyone's performance in this movie is real good. It also features some big and well known names in it, most notably Yorick van Wageningen. Though it needs to be said that he has been working and living in the United States for so long now, that he has actually grown a thick accent when speaking Dutch. Luckily it doesn't ever get that bad or too distracting and people who don't speak or understand Dutch will not be bothered by this at all of course.

This (almost Oscar nominated) movie surpassed my expectations really!

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Good story; excellent performances.
paulclaassen19 January 2021
It's important to know 'Winter in Wartime' is not an action war movie. This is a drama set during the Second World War. The film revolves around a young boy, Michiel, who decides to help a soldier, Jack, who finds himself beyond enemy lines after his plane was shot down.

Michiel is a nosy youngster, and his notion to help the soldier might be attributed to this characteristic. It is disconcerting to see such a young boy lie with ease. It was also interesting seeing him become increasingly more possessive over Jack - especially once Michiel's sister, Erica, becomes involved. Erica is a nurse, who sees to Jack's wounds.

The film deals with so many different emotions, and the performances from the entire cast is really good. This is not your typical war movie, and might disappoint action buffs for lack of action, but it certainly delivers on an emotional and moral level. Martijn Lakemeier is excellent as Michiel, who carries the film.
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Excellent World War II film through the eyes of the young
TheatreAnn10 January 2010
" The Netherlands' official submission to 82nd Academy Award's Foreign Language in 2010"

We saw this recently at the Academy screenings, and thought it one of the better foreign films we have seen this year. Hope it gets a nomination at least, and thus a US release! Contrary to some of the reviews here, we thought the acting was excellent. It's not Saving Private Ryan, but nevertheless quietly intense. More psychological than a battlefield story, it plays beautifully with the woven story of coming of age and into responsibility. As actors and as frequent voters for the foreign film category, definitely recommending this. -- Stephen and Ann Tobolowsky
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Plot contrivances turn compelling tale of Dutch town during Nazi occupation into standard fare
Turfseer28 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"Winter in Wartime" is a Dutch film based on a young adult novel of the same name by Jan Terlouw. The protagonist is a pre-teen named Michiel who is the son of a provincial town's mayor during Nazi Occupation in the waning days of World War II. Michiel is ashamed of his father, perceiving that he's too cozy with the Germans but is actually doing the best he can given the dire circumstances of living under Nazi rule. When Uncle Ben, an apparent member of the Resistance, returns home, Michiel is overjoyed that there is at least someone in the family who is actually a "man of action." Later, in a nice twist, we find out that appearances are deceiving.

The bulk of the film concerns a British pilot who is forced to a make a crash landing in the forest and ends up killing a German soldier in order to save himself. Michiel stumbles upon the pilot's hideout and decides to help him. There is a strong scene where Michiel's father is taken away in reprisal for the discovery of the dead soldier, shot by the British pilot. Michiel counts on Uncle Ben who promises to pull some strings; but as we later learn, the father heroically refuses to let someone take his place, and is put in front of a firing squad by orders of the top Nazi commander in the village.

All this is quite educational for a young adult viewer eager to learn more about the Nazis and their modus operandi viz-a-viz the Dutch in World War II. But Winter in Wartime goes awry in the awkward plot machinations served up in the second half of the narrative. Most unconvincing is that chase featuring Michiel and the British pilot, ensconced in an old rickety buggy versus a bunch of Germans in a fast moving automobile. Their escape into the woods simply does not pass the simplest of litmus tests.

Another thing that bothered me was that the German soldiers had a close-up view of Michiel when he was stopped right before their madcap escape. Wouldn't the Nazis back in town have recognized MIchiel from the description, realizing he was the kid who helped the pilot to escape?

Also quite unbelievable is the British pilot's escape, as he moves like an acrobat, on the underside of a well-watched bridge. And do we also need the aside of the sister having a bout of sex with the pilot? No doubt the films' scenarists reasoned that this would be appealing to a young adult audience. Finally, in terms of criticism, things don't move fast enough in the plot to save the pilot. There are just too many visits to the hideaway and when we get to the climactic chase scene, it's a big letdown.

Winter in Wartime does make the welcome point that there were collaborators in Holland during this time. SUPER SPOILERS AHEAD. So it's a welcome twist when the seemingly heroic Uncle Ben morphs into the dastardly friend of the Nazis and must be disposed of by Michiel, who is forced to shoot his Uncle upon threat that he'll be turned into the Nazis by his own flesh and blood.

Winter in Wartime is basically a by-the-numbers treatise on the Nazi occupation in Holland. For young viewers, it's a basic introduction to what the local population had to deal with during this point in history. If only there was more of an attempt to dispense with contrivances in the plot. Had this been done, Winter in Wartime could possibly have approached being a classic.
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An Oscar contender
johno-2122 January 2010
I recently saw this at the 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival where the film's director Martin Koolhoven was on hand at my screening for an audience Q&A following the film. Based on the Dutch novel by Jan Terlouw the story takes place in January of 1945 in Nazi-occupied Holland. In the novel the central character Michiel (Martijn Lakemeir) is 16, here he is 14, and is looking for a chance to help the underground resistance movement. His favorite uncle, Ben (yorick van Wageningen) is a member of the resistance and has come to live with Michiel's family. Michiel's father (Raymond Thiry) is the mayor of the German occupied village and his teenaged sister Erica (Melody Klauer) works as a nurse. A neighbor of Michiel asks him to deliver an envelope on behalf of the resistance and soon he is in over his his head in espionage and the war and an effort to help Jack (Jamie Campbell Bower), a downed and injured American pilot hiding out in the forest outside of the village. With noted veteran German actor Dan van Husen as the commander of the village's occupying army. Excellent cinematography from Guido van Gennep and a great looking film thanks to art director Darius Bastys and production designer Floris Vos this is a good film and has made the eight film short list to the 82nd Academy Awards as the Netherlands official submission for Best foreign Language Film. Some of the acting seems a little stiff and the film could use more tension but I would recommend it and give it an 8.5 out of 10. I'm sure this will be playing in American art house theaters in 2010.
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Excellent movie "teenager in war' for audience aged 10-110
info-181173 December 2008
Oorlogswinter is a very, very special movie around the themes war, love, trust, friendship from the point of view of a 14-year old Dutch teenager in the last winter of World War 2.

  • beautiful cold winter-setting with lots of snow and original landscapes; - fantastic music from Pino Donaggio; - lots of close shots on excellent actors; - shows both the adventure and the drama of a war.

The 14-year old actor playing the main role is an amazing natural talent in a very realistic story which could happen to every teener in a war-situation.

This is a movie everyone must see between 10 and 110.

Watch out for Oorlogswinter!
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A 14 year old boy becoming a man in winter wartime in The Netherlands
hans-bmw2 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is the story of Michiel, a 14 year old boy living in a small town in the Netherlands. It's winter 1944/1945 and he thinks that war is quite exiting. He is very interested in joining the underground movement but does not know how. This all changes when a good friend ask him to deliver a letter for him if 'things' should go wrong. As of that moment Michiel finds out that war isn't that exiting. He struggles with trust and choices and finds out that war is no fun at all. He is thrown into adulthood in a very short time. I think this movie is very good. It has a very good atmosphere which was wonderfully done by director Martin Koolhoven. You really see the movie through the eyes of Michiel. The leading role is played by Martijn Lakemeier, an unknown Dutch boy who had just started with acting lessons. He is very convincing in his role! The story itself is based on the novel "Oorlogswinter" written by Jan Terlouw in 1963 and which contains some autobiographic parts.

I think this is a 'must see' movie for everyone who has read the book or wants to know how war really was in those days.

I gave it a 9 out of 10.
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a boy at war
dutchthea14 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Michiel is the son of the major of a small dutch town. It's 1944, the infamous hunger-winter. Michiel is not too impressed with his father's behavior, he thinks his father is too friendly to the German occupiers. Than one evening an English plane crashes. A couple of days later Michiel finds the hideout of the surviving English pilot. This sets in motion a series of dramatic events. I really liked this movie. The atmosphere was sombre, the acting fine. All actors ( with the exception of Tygo Gernandt in a needless cameo-appearance) were completely believable. It's not as flashy as Black Book for instance, but this is a terrific dutch movie. True some of the twists in the story are predictable but still highly recommended.
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Solid World War II film
Andy-29620 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A fine World War II film made by the Dutch. As the winter of 1944-1945 rages, and the population in the German occupied Netherlands suffers famine, a teenage boy in a small farm town, son of the politically ambivalent mayor, risks his life by helping a downed British pilot who is hiding in the nearby forest. Adapted from a well regarded novel, the film is nothing extraordinary, and is far less flashy than the similarly themed Black Book but is enjoyable nonetheless. The storytelling is conventional and a bit slow at times but is solid and so is the acting. The wonderful bluish photography and the winterly landscape full of snowy fields and forests helps the movie (the film was shot in the Netherlands and in Lithuania). One may take issue with a few parts here and there (for instance, why the boy decides to continue helping the pilot even after he is unwittingly responsible for his father execution) but these objections seem minor in the face of a well made movie.
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dusan-2213 August 2009
Nice film. Pretty much on this film is for the very good grade: camera, which is pure 10, acting and the story. The story brings the convincing picture of the kid during the time of war. This is how that probably looks like. No absolute good or bad, just problems, sense of pure childish honor and duty, and pain over all. This is about how my father tells me on WWII Occupation as he was the kid of that age back then. What I don't like about this film are the trivial shots which are kind of camera pleonasm. If somebody is wondering about something, there is no need to shoot him a whole minute just to express the very same feeling with no oscillation at all. This is for the art film. Instead of wasting the time on showing a person going up the whole 24 stairs making the movie slow, use most of that time to develop the minor characters: mother, sister, father and what is most important in this particular film - uncle Ben. The way his character fits into the hesitations of the growing up human profile of the strong kid is perfect; however, we don't have enough information to observe a picture that the main character fatally developed about him which makes his thoughts and motives pretty much unclear. All in all, pursuit towards excellence brings to this movie 6 out of 10 from my side.
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Dutch courage
Lejink29 December 2016
Weak title for a strong second world war-time drama set in a small Dutch town occupied by the German Army in early 1945. The plot centres on a young teenage boy, just on the cusp of manhood, whose curiosity and growing wish to contribute to the war effort begins to lead him into trouble, especially as his father is the conciliatory town mayor. When a young British fighter-pilot's plane comes down just outside the town and he has to kill an investigating enemy soldier on patrol, young Theo determines to track him down and lead him to safety.

Realistically shot in the grey, cold winter time, the story probably includes a bit too much clichéd action which makes the twists in the tale somewhat predictable when they come. In no particular order these involve the boy's relationship with a newly-arrived uncle sympathetic to the Dutch Resistance movement, his nurse sister's burgeoning relationship with the baby-faced young Brit and his tricky relationship with his father in whom he is disappointed at his apparent cooperation with the Germans.

The movie also inserts a number of nail-biting moments of near-discovery, treachery and last-minute attempted rescues, possibly too many for the story to bear in its running-time and still seem true-to-life. There's a mild rites-of-passage undertow to events as the young boy's sexual desires awaken, courtesy of a handy peephole in his upstairs room when his family put in a young girl and her family, a set of pornographic playing cards and finally, mist blatantly, when his sister gets together with the pilot.

The final scene of heroic escape is again a bit too exaggerated for my taste as is the boy's overcoming his natural aversion to guns until provoked too far, but for all my caveats, it's a fast-moving, exciting and gripping story, very well-acted by most of the leads, only the young British actor playing the pilot seems too lightweight in his portrayal.

I see this movie won several awards in its native Holland and I can understand why. It's a good movie which might have worked a bit better for me with a few less climactic scenes which tend to overpower the narrative and seem like an unnecessary concession to Hollywood action movie conventions.
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Rather implausible
malcolmgsw15 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This film is only showing in 2 cinemas in London and since it is likely only to be on for a week this may be the only review from the UK.Generally i have to say that i found the film becoming more and more implausible as the film wore on.After all if Uncle Benwanted to protect his treachery why hide German papers in his case.This was nonsensical.I have to say that in a number of Dutch films that i have seen to do with the Second World war treachery and betrayal are common themes.Maybe this is something which is in the Dutch psyche.Maybe they want to exculpate their sins.My mine complaint was in the characterisation of the pilot.He looked what he was a contemporary actor.In no way was he believable as a pilot.He was not helped in this respect by script or direction.He simply did not speak and act as a British pilot would speak and act in 1945.Also the basic plot point of a German soldier shooting rather than capturing a pilot.Remember that a living pilot would be of greater use to the Germans for the intelligence that they may get from him.An interesting film nonetheless but one which misses the target.
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Respectable film wounded by incautious screenplay
dsdsds167 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Initially, we should consider that any serious psychological approach on WW2 is fated to slow and deep scenes. Those who watched this film expecting hollywoodian action certainly got frustrated. This, however, doesn't free the film from critics of people used to melodrama. Some reviewers have pointed the film's realism, while others have found some inaccuracies that essentially ruin this Dutch piece. I won't try to sound clever than anyone else by establishing a midterm; I'll just explore the opinions from my perspective, helping later spectators to identify what failed and what succeeded in "Oorlogswinter".

1. Actors: the cast is fairly the film's stronghold. No one can put in doubt Martijn and Yorick's competence. Their performance is outstanding and mostly suitable. Their expressions dismiss dialogues, reveal situations in which the viewer can dive in and securely assume a position. Actually, we can live Michiel's reality, we can comprehend his actions, his fears, his words and thoughts. Let me exemplify (big spoiler ahead): you surely understood what was going through the protagonist's mind when he pointed, for the second time, a gun at his uncle. He was stuck between childish bonds and wartime manhood. And you also noticed Ben's confidence on his nephew's hesitation; you knew he would denounce Jack if Michiel spared him. The razor's scene is very symbolic too. Some criticize the British pilot, his age and actions; but we should remember he was perturbed as well. He was experiencing something new and uncertain, he probably had passed his last months doing missions in the sky or training in quarters. This helps to understand his affection for Erica, since she was the very first lady he talked to after a long time. The minor characters are decent, though not perfect. Michiel's mother showed a genuine reaction to her husband's arrest, but her anguish apparently disappeared when she stepped home. Theo's actions didn't seem natural, but I mainly blame his embarrassing "rotating toy" (that thing even managed to make Martijn look stupid in the last scene).

2. Plot: "Oorlogswinter" has a good story; it may seem cliché at a first glance, but it explores a new perspective on late western front. The resistance cause, the betrayals and the crashed airplane create an interesting background to the Netherlandish daily life in mid 40's. However, the screenwriters were too careless to make that plot worthy of the actors. I noticed they got the protagonists in problems not knowing how to free them exactly. The actions scenes seemed nice initially, but the outcome was always implausible, incoherent. I remember very well the bikes scene, in which Jack and Michiel were cycling through a road when they faced German soldiers on sidecar motorcycles. The two stopped and ran to the trees; Michiel came back alone, took his bike again and calmly passed near the soldiers -who had just noticed him running! What to say about the carriage and the ferry scene then? Well, they don't deserve an elaborated comment. Jack's rodeo ability (and don't forget he was wounded), the unlikely chasers' collision with trees, the lengthy yet succeeded escape, Jack's incredible instinct, German's bad aiming, the unexplainable end of every chase scene, and the absence of any consequence after the encounter with the ferry controller (who saw Michiel and Jack's faces and, under pressure, probably denounced them, enabling a big search for the two young men) are just enough... And, of course, there is the bridge scene that unrealistically challenges the pilot's wound, and the unsuspected back and forth of a boy in a lonely forest. After all, we should admit one or other point that escaped from the screenwriters' insanity. The film managed to avoid the flat characterization of Nazis, as we noticed from two scenes in which Germans helped our protagonist. The Dutch rural movement and famine are well described.

What can we conclude? This film has a realistic background and provides a convincing immersion. But crucial scenes are bad elaborated and reveal poor effort from producers. You may be missing details on space and costumes, but I don't have enough knowledge about these issues to touch them; while watching, I was just indifferent to the anachronistic houses some mentioned. This way, I give my final judgment: 6/10. And, after writing this review, I'm glad to realize I didn't lost my time watching this.
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great movie
surfisfun21 March 2017
wow, that's a 9+ one, story, acting, cinematography , directing, a+. Also, not a bad movie for subtitle reading as the dialogues are kept minimal. whatever genre you like, it is a good movie. Like a user described about 2nd world war in Deutschland, The Occupation was a lot smoother in some aspects then France regarding the nationals, and it bring a different flavor to war movies. It is a very emotional movies . Very recommended. ----- now I just red the negatives reviews, and I agree about the discrepancies in the plots and some situations. I guess I like emotional bs exaggeration and easily disregard illogical things. I will not name them, no need of negative spoilers. like Forest Gump, just let the movie take you for a nice ride.
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Impressive war movie, appealing to suspenseful imagination
Heeling31 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Winter in wartime is an impressive Dutch drama about a boy who is coming of age during a war in which he has to make some adult decisions. The movie is based on the youth book 'oorlogswinter' by Jan Terlouw, who praised the movie himself.

The script has been adjusted very well for the screen, with a suspenseful storyline and in-depth characters. The performances of Martijn Lakemeijer (Michiel) and Jamie Campbell Bower (Jack) really stand out. For Dutch standards it's produced in very high quality, with great photography and a beautiful score. I recommend this movie highly to anyone, especially those who are interested in incredible war stories.

The story sets in rural Netherlands in the winter of 44/45. A small village has kept his head above water in a turbulent war, due to the efforts of the mayor. During the war he has kept a strategic relationship with the Germans, to keep the citizens of the village safe from harm.

--Spoilers-- The quiet life changes when a RAF plane crashes in the woods. Jack, the pilot survives using his parachute. While hanging in the trees, he kills a German soldier who is on patrol. When the body is discovered, the Germans search the village, looking for the gunman. Jack, who hurt his leg is unable to travel and hides in a bunker in the woods, that's been made by the village's resistance. When the search of the Germans is unsuccessfully, they decide to shoot the mayor in revenge.

Michiel, the mayor's 15 year old son, has helped Jack to survive in the woods. Together with his sister and his uncle Ben they try to get Jack to a big city, from where he should find his way back to England. Michiel needs to make some risky decisions, which really are to big for this courageous boy.

I rate this movie 9/10
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A very good coming of age tale about growing up in a war zone. Reminds me of the kid in "Enemy At The Gates". I say B
cosmo_tiger25 July 2011
"Dirk should never have got you involved." After 14 year old Dutch boy Michael (Lakemeier) finds a wounded British soldier during WWII he has to pick a side, resistance or appease the Nazi's. This is a very good coming of age story. It shows how a 14 year old in a war zone is forced to grow up earlier then he should and how he deals with hiding the fact that he is helping "the enemy" from everyone, even his family. The title of the movie is deceiving, to me anyway. There is not a typical war movie, in the fact that there is no actual fighting. It is set around a boy and the part of the war that we don't usually see. This is a very good movie, but this is another one that is not for everyone. It is a little slow moving in parts, but as a foreign movie that is expected. The acting by the boy is very very good and at 17 years old looks to have a long career ahead of him. Overall, a very, very well done movie that deserves to be seen. One of the most dramatic war movies I have seen. I like it. I give it a B.

Would I watch it again? - I don't think I would, but it was good.

*Also try - Enemy At The Gates
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grantss9 September 2020
Had potential, and some interesting moments, but ultimately fails to deliver. Drifts throughout and only really comes together at the end.
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A bad TV Movie of the Week
Aristides-27 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Sloppy story; German troops intent on finding a downed Brit pilot and are unsuccessful day after day in the forest where the pilot's been hiding.

But the bro and his sister make multiple unobserved daylight trips. (And the moron Germans fail to connect bicycle tracks to a hideaway.) Several times Michiel and/or Erica just drive along the road and find Jack. Screenwriter never heard of hypothermia? Twice people fall into frigid water without any apparent physical harm being done. But then again, there was never any weather cold enough to cause peoples breaths to fog up when they spoke. Plenty of electricity in hero house as well as heat....during wartime yet. Martijn Lakemeier (Michiel) not a bad actor but limited: After seeing his father murdered, hours and days later, he seems unaffected by the memory. Where's the trauma? Jack the pilot way, way too young for the part. My goodness, he's supposed to be a fighter pilot. The botched ferry ambush. Young Jack just knows that something's not right. Where does that instinct come from? And what about the 10 or 12 German riflemen who couldn't hit anything from the far bank? Speaking of the ferry ambush, if the Germans had been tipped off why wasn't there a squad or too on the side of the river where the ferry was tethered? Later on, the horse and buggy can't be overtaken by several German army vehicles. Plus more poor marksmanship including a machine gun shooting from about 100' away. Then the single most absurd thing in the movie: Jack suddenly becomes a championship rodeo performer and while the Germans are driving with their brakes on their vehicles, he jumps onto the horse and pulls Michiel after him. Later, the pursuers not that far away, Caesar is euthanized and the barely muffled shot fails to bring the soldiers to their quarry. Uncle Ben has kept his German sympathies a secret from his brother the mayor. And is stupid enough to keep incriminating evidence in the cheap suitcase? Jack is in the house only for a few hours, is being sought and yet takes the time to have sex with the sister, Erica. Folks, is that a reasonable priority? (No locks on her bedroom door either.) Jack's extremely nasty leg wound seems to heal overnight and there's no sign of a limp or any weakness in the leg. (Able to scale the bottom of a steel bridge like a trapeze artist under the very nose of yet another group of dim Germans.) My final comment is that this movie trivializes some very nasty things that happened in the Netherlands. TV Movie of the Week? Not really since occasionally some of them were not bad.
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