“SECRETS OF WAR”
Tuur (Maas Bronkhuzen) and Lambert (Joes Brauers)are best friends who live in a Nazi-occupied Dutch village. They spend their days playing soldiers and they love to go exploring in the local caves. They also make fun of the war that seems to be much farther away than it really is. Maartje (Pippa Allen) joins their class and everyone notices that she is different from the ret of her classmates but the loves immediately invite her into their company and the three children form a very special friendship and bond. They share adventures, secrets and mischief. It does not take long until the realities of war get to them and Lambert’s father who is a Nazi sympathizer, becomes mayor of their town. Tuur discovers his own father and brother have joined the resistance, and now the two best friends are at odds with each other. Maartje, we learn, has a secret of her own, one that not only threatens to tear the new friends apart, but also could lead to terrible consequences for anyone involved in keeping it. The film lets us see both the danger and the humanity of wartime friendships where three children must face extraordinary circumstances but do so with maturity that exceeds their years.
We actually have two stories. The first is about the ways a friendship between two newly-adolescent Dutch boys, Tuur and Lambert is tested, first by Maartje, a girl that they both like and then by World War Two, something neither child initially understands. The second story is an anti-war treatise that shows the ways war tears apart uninvolved lives.
All three young actors are very good, especially Allen who convincingly shows us her secrets long before the screenplay has her tell them to us. The real scene-stealer is Loek Peters, who plays Tuur’s father. Peters (and the other grown-ups in Tuur’s family) is the vehicle through which director Dennis Bots and writer Karin van Holst Pellekaan show us the horrors and tragedies of World War Two, but without much dialogue which means communication about the seriousness of the situation is related non-verbally.
It is the talent of the young actors (their facial expressions convey genuine emotions), the wonderful musical score and the skillful work of director Dennis Bots in giving us a look at a friendship that makes this film so special.
“Secrets of War” is a period piece. Lambert’s father is collaborating with the invading Nazis, while Tuur’s father quietly works to maintain independence. The boys are not separated by politics but instead by Maartje, the new girl in town who is said to be visiting family, but we are able to understand what her secret is. This is a very strong movie that has a great deal to say to both youngsters and adults.