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Winter in Wartime: Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 7, 2011 by  



A powerful film that is wonderfully crafted and also features an awesome performance from the young Martijn Lakemeier.  “Winter in Wartime” is another wonderful World War II-era film from the Netherlands and cinema worth owning on Blu-ray!

Images courtesy of © 2008, 2010 Isabella Films B.V., Fu Works B.V. and Prime Time Media Entertainment GmbH. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Winter in Wartime (Oorlogswinter)

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2008

DURATION: 103 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), Dutch and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (For Some Language)

RELEASE DATE: July 26, 2011

Based on the novel by Jan Terlouw

Directed by Martin Koolhoven

Screenplay by Mieke de Jong, Martin Koolhoven, Paul Jan Nelissen

Produced by San Fu Maltha, Els Vandevorst

Associate Producer: Jan Vrints

Co-Produced by Antonino Lombardo

Line Producer: Niko Post

Assistant Line Producer: Maars van Haaften

Music by Pino Donaggio

Cinematography by Guido van Gennep

Edited by Job ter Burg

Casting by Elske Falkena, Rebecca van Unen

Production Design by Floris Vos

Art Direction by Darius Bastys

Costume Design by Alette Kraan

Starring:

Martijn Lakemeier as Michiel

Yorick van Wageningen as Oom Ben

Jamie Campbell Bower as Jack

Raymond Thiry as Johan

Melody Klaver as Erica

Anneke Blok as Lia

Mees Peijnenburg as Dirk

Jesse van Direl as Theo

Dan van Husen as Auer

Ad van Kempen as Schafter

Tygo Gernandt as Bertus

Ben Remakers as Verrman

Nazi-occupied Holland, 1945. In a snow-covered village, thirteen-year-old Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) is drawn into the Resistance when he aids a wounded British paratrooper. Michiel’s boyish sense of defiance and adventure soon turns to danger and desperation, as Michiel is forced to act without knowing whom to trust among the adults and townspeople around him. Wartime’s harsh reality encroaches on childhood innocence as Michiel confronts good and evil, courage and duplicity, and his own burden of responsibility. Based on teh bestselling novel by Jan Terlouw.

In 2008, the Dutch war film “Oorlogswinter” (Winter in Wartime), an adaptation of the popular 1972 Dutch novel by Jan Terlouw is directed by Martin Koolhoven (“Suzy Q”, “AmnesiA”, “Het Schnitzelparidjs”)  became one of Netherlands top grossing films.

Winning multiple awards and receiving rave reviews from critics worldwide, “Winter in Wartime” finally receives its long-awaited Blu-ray and DVD release (via a Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack) in America courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics in July 2011.

The film would introduce young actor Martijn Lakemeier (“Lover and Loser”, “Sonny Boy”) and stars Yorick van Wageningen (“The Chronicles of Riddick”, “The New World”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), Melody Klaver (“Dusk”, “Doors”) and Jamie Campbell Bower (“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”, “New Moon, “Camelot”).

To help people understand what “Winter in Wartime” is about, first I must explain the context of where Netherlands was back during World War II.

As a neutral country during both World Wars, in 1940, the country was invaded by Nazi Germany.  While the Dutch were able to fight off the Germans, during a time with negotiations between the Dutch and Germans, miscommunication by the Germans led to the accidental bombing of Rotterdam where 950 civilians were killed and the area was devastated.  The Germans used the incident as a way to make the Netherlands surrender and eventually, the Dutch surrendered.

During Germany’s occupation of Netherlands, the Netherlands was controlled by a German civilian governor and Germany tried to make the country to an Aryan nation and Jews in the country were persecuted, socialists were imprisoned and Roman Catholic priests were deported to concentration camps.

Meanwhile, civilians were forced into labor at German factories and food and goods in Netherlands were scarce. So, many Dutch had hatred towards the Germans, a few collaborated with them.

Many people were driven away from their homes and because the Germans blocked food and fuel shipments from farm areas, many people starved and people died from “The Dutch famine of 1944”.

“Oorlogswinter” (Winter in Wartime) is a film about innocence lost because of the war.

“Winter in Wartime” is a film that focuses on a young teen named Michiel van Beusekom (played by Martjin Lakemeier), who is the son of the town’s mayor Vader van Beusekom (played by Raymond Thiry).

For Michiel, he often gets himself into trouble with the Germans occupying the area but doesn’t worry because his father is mayor and his father tends to get him released whenever he is in trouble.  But Michiel has a hatred towards the Nazi Germans and can’t stand that his father can stand in front of the Germans, shaking their hands and laughing.  So, he has resentment towards his father, not knowing that his father only does this for his family’s survival but also to help other Dutch who have gotten in trouble with the Germans.

Michiel is a big admirer of his Uncle Ben (played by Yorick van Wageningen), a man that is an adventurer who is part of the Dutch resistance fighting against the Germans.  And he is happy when his Uncle Ben has arrived back home to stay with him.

Meanwhile, we see a British plane that has crashed near his town and the pilot named Jack (played by Jamie Campbell Bower) is injured but manages to kill the Nazi soldier looking for him.

Michiel’s friends have discovered that Jack is alive and for them, they sense that perhaps the allied nations maybe coming to help the Dutch and thus keep him hidden in shelter, giving him food and supplies.  One day, Michiel’s friend Dirk tells him to hold on to a note and that he and his friends were going to fight and destroy a German outpost.

But before they can do it that night, some of them are killed and Dirk is arrested by the Nazi’s.  Michiel’s father tries to find out if he knows anything about what happened but Michiel denies even talking about anything to Dirk in relation to the botched attack on the Germans.

Michiel decides to look at the note given to him by Dirk and decides to take control of things and goes to the area where he finds the British soldier Jack.  Michiel then secretly visits Jack each day, giving him supplies and food but also getting his sister, a nurse named Erica (played by Melody Klaver) to help Jack with his wounds.

The young Michiel decides to help Jack and eventually the two become friends.  Michiel tries to find a way for him to escape the town and get away from the Nazi Germans but when the Germans find the dead soldier that Jack killed, the Germans start thinking that perhaps people in town are assisting the British pilot.

So, many of the father’s in town, including the mayor, Michiel’s father are driven out of their homes and kept in a German prison and are scheduled for execution.

But will Michiel continue to save his friend that is wanted by the Germans or will he reveal the whereabouts of Jack in order to get his father released from prison?

VIDEO:

“Winter in Wartime” is a film that is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1) and the cinematography by Guido van Gennep is wonderful.  One of the goals by Martin Koolhoven was to make people feel that they were in the area while watching the film.  Capturing the frigid cold winter in the Netherlands and the cinematography is just beautiful as it showcases the arctic environment but also in HD, showcasing the amazing detail of the clothing, the bark on the trees and also capturing the emotions of the family.

It’s a film that was well-planned for its sequence and I have to agree with many film critics, “Winter in Wartime” is wonderfully crafted and looks absolutely great on Blu-ray!  I saw no banding, no artifacting, no speckles or dirt or any problems at all.  The picture quality is wonderful!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Winter in Wartime” is presented in Dutch and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  While the film is crystal clear in dialogue, there are some scenes where surround sound usage is well-done, a few scenes with LFE usage as well but it’s important to note that the film is primarily dialogue and ambiance driven.

There are scenes where you hear the Germans on their motorcycles, the squeaks of Michiel riding his bike, a scene where the ice beneath the bike breaks and shatters and several moments of gunshots and one major plane explosion.  For the most part, this is not a war film in the sense where there is constant action but a war film that focuses on its dramatic elements.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Winter in Wartime” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Winter in Wartime – (24:24) An interview with director Martin Koolhoven and the cast of “Winter in Wartime” about their involvement in the film and their thoughts of their character and scenes in the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer of “Winter in Wartime.

EXTRAS:

“Winter in Wartime” on Blu-ray also comes with a DVD version of the film.

“Winter in Wartime” is a powerful film that features beautiful cinematography and a wonderful performance from the young Martijn Lakemeier!

When it comes to World War II-era films that are about children, standout films that come to mind are Mike Herman’s 1998 film “The Boy in Striped Pajamas” and also Roberto Rosselini’s 1948 “Germany, Year Zero” to name a few.  While the efficacy of both films is the fact that they are though-provoking, especially the latter which was shot not long after the war ended, Martin Koolhoven’s “Winter in Wartime” gives us a perspective that we really don’t see much of, what was happening to the young in Netherlands during German occupation.

While Paul Verhoeven’s 1977 film “Soldaat van Oranje” (Soldier of Orange) is a classic war film that takes place in the Netherlands and my favorite Netherlands World War II film out there, “Winter in Wartime” is one that tries to maintain the theme of lost innocence and betrayal.  Where “Soldier of Orange” focused on college-aged kids choosing their own path and direction, “Winter in Wartime” is a film in which a boy, can’t understand this world around him and why the adults would try to make peace with the men who have brought suffering to his country.

Too young to understand his father’s delicate place in negotiations when it comes to the release of people who get into trouble in their town, but also a boy who looks to his Uncle Ben as the primary source of heroics.  But for those who follow history, especially in the Netherlands and knowing that like other countries who were faced with occupation, one had to make choices for survival.   Hold in your hatred towards the Germans and find a way to fight or join them and become a traitor to your own country and people for the sake of survival or other reasons.

For Michiel, anyone who fights against the Germans are heroes to him.  Those who talk and laugh with them are not and thus the resentment he feels towards his father.

There are images that we see throughout the film that capture the historical situations of Netherlands quite well.  From those who were forced out of their homes and must walk the frozen terrain looking for food but to see certain people with power who do try to work with the Germans, are in a much better position.

Filmmaker Martin Koolhoven tries to capture those situations that he felt as a young boy growing up at that time and brings it to a new generation of audiences who are not familiar with the fears that existed at the time.  In “Winter of Wartime”, the focus is on innocence and innocence lost.  Although young Michiel gets into trouble and his father has to bail him out, it’s not because he’s a bad kid but it’s because he can’t understand why people are to suffer because of the Germans and the fact that he is the mayor’s son and never gets into trouble, makes him more confident in pulling off things because of his father’s status.  And of course, when many fathers including Michiel’s own father are taken as prisoner by the Germans, he quickly learns that his family is not immune and their status in the Netherlands can easily be taken away from them.

The film works because of its great cinematography and its performances by its talents.  Primarily the work of main, young actor Martiijn Lakemeier.  To see the transformation of his character of Michiel from the beginning towards the end of the film was done quite well.

But while a powerful film that is wonderfully crafted, features wonderful performances and has beautiful cinematography, there was one action scene in the film that pulled me out of the zone.  I just felt that the filmmakers tried to include an action sequence that felt out-of-place.  Something that would seem suitable for an “Indiana Jones” type of film and surprisingly, even actor Jamie Campbell Bower used “Indiana Jones” as a reference to the scene in the special feature included on the Blu-ray release.

But aside from that one scene, the overall film was entertaining and enjoyable.  But its unfortunate that the film was rated R.  If it was because of one or two spoken words of profanity that the film which is based on a novel targeted for young people could have been easily accessible for children.

In fact, because of its rating, people may think that this is a violent war film but it’s not, especially when compared to other films that are far violent and are given a PG/PG-13 rating.   The film does have a sex scene (nothing is shown), does have a scene of a wounded leg (not graphical at all) and yes, guns shooting at other people but nothing graphic.  This is one of those instances where a film should not have been given an “R” rating.

As for the Blu-ray release, once again Sony Pictures Classics delivers in PQ and for a film of this type that is a war film but more dialogue and ambiance-driven, the lossless audio works very well for “Winter in Wartime”.  Special features were more on the short side of this Blu-ray release as only one “making of” special feature was included.

Recently, Sony Pictures Classics have been including Blu-ray and DVD combo packs of their films which is quite surprising but you know, as long as it’s not sold to expensively to consumers, I do like the practice of giving cinema fans the best of both worlds as many movie fans are beginning to migrate from DVD to Blu-ray and by including both, it helps bring more people in watching their films in HD and this is one film that definitely looks wonderful on Blu-ray!

Overall, “Winter in Wartime” is a film that is powerful and even memorable for its scene and performances.  Fortunately, it’s not another “Soldier of Orange” (which is a great film) but a film that chooses to find its own path through a country in war through the eyes of a boy.

Another solid release from Sony Pictures Classics.  Recommended!






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