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The story of a romantic relationship between a grown-up and a child. Set in the Netherlands near the end of WWII, the film is a flashback recalling an adolescent relationship between Jeroen and a Canadian soldier. A difficult subject handled with style and feeling. Written by
In the truck, when Gertie soils herself, one of the boys says that from now on she will be known as "Dirty Girtie." However, although this rhymes when spoken in English, the characters where speaking Dutch, with English subtitles shown, and it does not rhyme in Dutch, which is clearly what was intended for humorous effect. See more »
Search for comfort during times of uncertainty and loneliness
The many favorable reviews hailing this film as a cinematic delight are well taken. The delicate subject matter of a brief romantic relationship between an allied WWII soldier and a young boy in the occupied Nehterlands received a beautiful treatment. Without becoming lurid or vulgar, it is implied that the innocent "child" and the young soldier engaged in a sex act.
Many layers of sub-plots surround the story. The people in the village setting appear deeply religious, constantly learning how to be proper followers of Scriptural guidance. Sermons given to the locals, amidst the visiting soldiers are both thankful for the liberators' arrival, yet warning the "young women" not to be tempting these men to be lead astray. It was a subtle switch from preaching in Englsih, to the native Dutch that showed who the audience for that particular part of the sermon was.
There are many references to sexual tensions. The teenage boys suddenly notice the physical beauty in teenage girls. Without doubt, there was plenty of "fraternizing" between soldiers and local women. The scene where the young main character is out "exploring" with a slightly older boy is charged with sexual innuendo. The boy's "step father" is quite observant about the "goings on", yet offers no direct objections, only indirect and vague advice.
The question of whether a mere child can give consent to sexual activity with an adult remains. The picture of the soldiers who came to liberate the town is one of men who felt entitlement. They felt they had every right to "have fun" after saving the people from their evil oppressors. Although the young girls, and even our 12 year old main character, were willing participants in any "affairs", the sense that the soldiers felt entitled to receive whatever they desired in exchange for their desperately needed Military help, and the many hand-outs of Life-Savers, Gum, Cigarettes etc. changes nothing about their feeling of power over the situation.
For a grown man, a love affair of a few days can hardly be considered "love", but for a child whose innocence is forever lost, this is an affair they will never forget. Love is something not to be trifled with. A child's innocence should be regarded with no less respect. Whatever the "feelings" of the heart may have been, a 12 year old does well to give it a bit more time before seeking that first love.
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