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This month’s Film Club selection is SECRETS OF WAR, director Dennis Bots’ award-winning, powerful tale of adolescent friendship and loyalty set during World War II and adapted from the novel by Dutch author Jacques Vriens.
From its classically cinematic opening shot of an approaching train, Secrets of War reveals a pastoral idyll of golden fields and peaceful trees whose natural serenity is suddenly disrupted by civilization. Bots’ moving period piece, set in Holland during World War II, follows Lambert and Tuur, best friends on the cusp of adolescence, a time of both societal and personal instability. The repercussions of war are sharply felt by the boys through their divisive families: Lambert’s father is a collaborator and Tuur’s part of the resistance.
The scenes of the two friends playing soldierspoignantly marks the childhood view of war. Focusing on their perspective cleverly magnifies the stakes of the war through the lens of adolescent infatuation. The dramatic arrival of Maartje, a girl whose mystery and evident otherness foretell of greater tensions, exacerbates the vacillating loyalties of the two best friends.
The charming score cushions scenes of contrasting tenderness which speak to a common, timeless experience of childhood that eclipses the political. This lyric film explores the fragility of human connection, of friendship, in the face of disaster, exploring the ties which can endure even when the world seems to have shattered. A perfect entry point for young cinephiles in the making, Secrets of War caters to a younger audience without patronizing it and the difficult material is treated with a deft touch.