I had seen this movie about 10 years ago, and it didn't make that much of an impression, despite its subject matter. But I thought it might be ripe for re-viewing, so I watched it again last night. And it still didn't make much of an impression.
Jeroen Krabbé [best known in the U.S. as the villain from The Fugitive] plays a choreographer who is overseeing rehearsals of a work of his, about "freedom." He gives his dancers vague directions that they can't really follow, and shows them videotapes of the Netherlands' liberation from the Nazis, and his dancers obviously just want him to shut up. So he returns to the Netherlands to recharge his creativity, and the majority of the movie is his flashback to his childhood.
12-year-old Jeroen [also the character's name in the movie] is shipped off from Amsterdam to the Netherlands in order to escape the Nazis. He arrives at the house of this Dutch family [who really do wear wooden shoes], led by the hhhhhhhhhhhandsome Hait, who very unobtrusively makes Jeroen welcome in his home.
So there's some adolescent shenanigans, then the liberation happens and some Canadian soldiers come into town to stay for a bit. One of them, Walt, takes an immediate shine to Jeroen, and pursues him pretty relentlessly. Their friendship grows, and I don't know, maybe I'm just way too outwardly gay, but the stepfather was warning Jeroen that "we don't do that sort of thing here" before it even seemed to me like anything had HAPPENED. But soon enough they are [tastefully] romping in bed together, and laying quietly together as Jeroen protests at being called a baby. "No," says Walt, "I just meant that you're my baby."
Anyway, it goes on, and once it's over, we see that the adult Jeroen has somehow [it's not exactly explained how] used his perusing of these memories to improve his choreography and the attitude of his dancers-though their work still looks really banal to me.
I just didn't feel it. As a homo with a big-time Daddy complex, I expected to be much more moved, or even involved, in the story. But the whole thing stayed at a distance. I never felt the love that developed between the characters, or the admiration or awe that Jeroen had for Walt-as I said, it looked to me like they were just good friends, when the people in the film knew exactly what was going on. I suspect this happened because the filmmakers were so worried about keeping the whole thing tasteful-which they do-that the deeper emotions that might have stirred up more troubling moral issues were flattened out. On the other hand, they do succeed in portraying Walt as somewhat predatory without making him a monster or creepy molester, and at portraying Jeroen's budding homosexuality, as well as his lack of comprehension of what's really going on between him and Walt. The majority of reviewers on the IMDb report finding the movie moving, so keep that in mind, but personally I felt somewhat distant throughout.
The DVD for this film contains four trailers for other movies [but not this one], all dealing with homosexuality in some way. It can be interesting to see how they do or do not address the homosexuality. My favorite is a line from the trailer for Borstal Boy that only alluded to it by mentioning "a quest for personal freedom." Yes, canny viewers, that MEANS cocksucking. I am constantly reminded to remember that being gay is an uplifting, heartwarming, life-affirming experience. Why do I keep forgetting that?
It depends on your degree of interest in the subject. Personally, I wouldn't.