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Secrets of War (Film) Review


At A Glance...

Genre: ,
Actor: ,
Length: 1h 35m
Release Date: September 8, 2015 (VOD)
Story Line: During Word War II, the close friendship between two boys is threatened when a girl tells a secret to only one of them.
Final Score
3/ 5

User Rating
2 total ratings


We liked?

Character arc, visual design and Maas Bronkhuyzen

Not so much?

Doesn't bring anything new

Final Fiendish Findings?

A competently crafted WW2 film from the Netherlands that will engage enough to sit though, but not offer enough new to enthral.

Posted September 3, 2015 by

Full Fiendish Findings?

It almost feels disrespectful to say, but World War 2 films have become so old hat they would look at home resting on a stag’s head mounted on a wall. Secrets of War (Oorlegsgeheimen in the Netherlands) intrigued me because its apparent emphasis on the relationships of children in occupied Netherlands paralleled the film’s situation of a low budget drama in an industry occupied by Warner Brothers Studios.

Set in South Limburg 1943, the Germans have taken control with mixed reactions from the locals. Two best friends, Tuur (Maas Bronkhuyzen) and Lambert (Joes Brauers) have their relationship strained when new girl Maartje (Pippa Allen) turns up out of nowhere. The film teases the dull trope of two friends falling for the same girl, but thankfully evades it when Maartje tells Tuur a secret he can tell no one else, not even Lambert.

From here the plot becomes more interesting and complex, all of it told from Tuur’s perspective. Taking the point of view of a naive – and fairly dumb – child (“I just don’t understand why they don’t tell me what they do!” Tuur complains after immediately divulging secrets to a girl he just met) offers a subtle build up of tension while the environment slowly crashes down upon him. The first two thirds of the film feels likes it is going to deal with the complexities of choosing sides in a time of war, and how a black and white, ‘good vs evil’ philosophy in war is childishly naive. The final act of the film scraps all that in favour of a dramatic chase sequence. Subtly is abandoned in favour of more on-the-nose visual storytelling. The plot has little weight behind it and scenes presumably meant to leave us in tears offer minor impact.

Where the film excels is the character arcs of Tuur and Lambert; both being pushed into political affiliation by their parents. Bronkhuyzen carries the weight of the film brilliantly telling half the entire storyline in subtle facial twitches and eye movement as we gradually watch his innocence deplete. The act three climax works well after a gradual build up but – while not wishing to spoil – the ending is a little weak with a finishing shot so ridiculously out of place it’d be like if Jack Nicholson woke up and won Who Wants To Be A Millionaire at the end of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. 

Overall it’s hard to recommend Secrets of War: not because it isn’t good but because it doesn’t bring enough new to a World War 2 film. Director Dennis Bots did a fine job with decent cinematography and set design, but simply didn’t push enough boundaries to compete with the likes of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. 

Fin Carew