Archive for March 23rd, 2011

Martijn Lakemeier plays the resistance fighter hero of superb coming-of-age Dutch drama "Winter in Wartime"

by Sam Juliano

     The plight of Holland during the terrible days of the Third Reich invariably leads to the real-life story of Anne Frank, a gifted 13 year old, who with her family, were captured and sent off to concentration camps in the waning days of the second world war.  The diary she left behind, which stands as an amazingly perceptive coming-of-age testament,  has served as an inspiration for schoolchildren in the intervening decades, and as a lasting monument to the irrepressible human spirit.  Director Martin Koolhaven’s Winter in Wartime, (Oorlogswinter) a visually arresting Dutch film made a few years ago contains a number of themes that invite comparisons with the Frank document: age of the main character, betrayal, concealment and maturation in a time of oppression only months before the war’s conclusion.  The major difference aside from the fact vs. fiction aspect is one that will be left unrevealed in fear of violating the film’s narrative aesthetic even taking into account the spoilers chronicled in this review.

 Set in a village in the Netherlands in wintry January, the film presents the point-of-view of 13 year-old Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) the uncooperative son of a Nazi collaborator father, who is Mayor of the town.  A sense of urgency is imparted in the perspective of having all the events of the film unfold through the boys’ eyes, even accentuating that view by including a number of shots of Michiel looking at other characters through holes and narrow openings.  Indeed it’s what gives this film it’s power and singular focus, in large measure due to the increasing awareness shared by the protagonist and the audience.  And setting plays a large role in advancing the plot.  In this sense the expansive, unmitigated whiteness that is seen in the vast majority of the film’s outdoor sequences serves as a thematic contrast to the caliginous hues of war.  (more…)

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Director: Robert Siodmak

Producer: Michael Kraike

Screenwriter: Daniel Fuchs

Cinematographer: Franz Planer

Music: Miklos Rozsa

Studio: Universal 1949

Main Acting: Burt Lancaster, Yvonne De Carlo, Dan Duryea

A beautiful arial shot of dusky Los Angeles is our introduction into the lives of doomed couple, Steve Thompson ( Burt Lancster) and Anna Dundee (Yvonne De Carlo): two lovers who can’t seem to stay apart despite all the negative aspects that arise when they are together. Told in flashback after about 12 minutes of real-time narrative, we are treated to the particulars of this complicated romance. Steve left his comfortable surroundings and local neighborhood to get away from the woman he could not cope with emotionally. He hopes that the forced distance and non-communication could extinguish some of the passion he knows is hurtful to both of them. On his return, the obsession is still tangible and he can’t help but drop into the “old place” to get a glimpse of his beloved ex-wife. The saloon is basically empty except for past ghosts that still haunt Steve. As hard as he tries to run from his former life, the pull is too great. This is what Criss Cross is about—inescapable memories and failures that continue to influence future activities. No matter how obvious it appears to Steve that he and Anna are not good for each other, they will continue to remain intwined by some seemingly larger force that will eventually destroy them. A deadly dance of fate and preordained misery. (more…)

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