DUTCH NOVELIST Jan Terlouw published the very popular and well-regarded Dutch children's book Oorlogswinter in 1972; it was adapted into a TV miniseries, and a musical-theater version is threatening to open in Holland later this year. In the meantime, Martin Koolhoven's 2008 film adaptation opens in Portland this week under its English title Winter in Wartime. It's yet another somber World War II film (boo Nazis!), but it's effectively and humanely told from the point of view of a Dutch, non-Jewish, 13-year-old boy—a perspective that I found engagingly unfamiliar.
Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) is the son of the village mayor, but his father's office has been rendered impotent by occupying Nazis. Since the Netherlands claim neutrality, Michiel is able for the most part to freely wander the snow-covered countryside on his bike. (Koolhoven's Dutch winter is expertly depicted and impressively immersive.) But as allied forces close in, the Germans grow desperate and tighten their grip on the town, and when Michiel discovers a downed English plane—and, not long after, the plane's pilot hiding in a hole underground—he's soon thrust in the middle of the resistance, unsure of whom he can trust. True, Winter in Wartime is yet another WWII film, but it's a charming and engrossing one.