Secrets of War

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Secrets of War Movie Poster Image
Moving subtitled film shows war through a child's eyes.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 95 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Friendship can be stronger than ideology. Children can rise above their parents' prejudices. Grown-ups can be bullies. Prejudice, bigotry, and ignorance are widespread, but good people fight against them. Courage and integrity are important themes. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tuur loves his best friend Lambert even though Lambert's father is a Nazi. When he learns a new girl at school is a Jew in hiding, he courageously tries to protect her from the collaborating Nazis who run his village. Lambert helps Resistance fighters escape even though his own father reports such people to the Nazis.

Violence

The threat of violence hangs over this movie. We see German soldiers storming homes and dragging Resistance members out. We see those soldiers cart off a couple harboring a Jewish girl. Tuur and his family are chased by Nazis through the nighttime countryside when they are exposed as Resistance fighters. School-age bullies physically abuse a clubfooted boy.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Secrets of War is a Dutch, English-subtitled film set during World War II that depicts a child's-eye view of war. Most of the violence is implied as Nazi soldiers round up and arrest Resistance members and Jews. People are seen running in fear from men in German uniforms. A child's arm is shown dropping a teddy bear from a deportation train; parents may decide to explain to older kids that the trains are carrying Jews to concentration camps. Kids too young to understand the complexity of prejudice, totalitarianism, and wartime occupation will nevertheless recognize jealousy and bullying by both the children and Nazis in the film. The movie has strong messages of courage and friendship.

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What's the story?

In a small Dutch village in 1943, SECRETS OF WAR follows young Tuur as he slowly realizes his parents are Resistance fighters while the family of his best friend, Lambert, are Nazis. The boys befriend a new girl at school, but she ultimately favors Tuur and reveals to him a secret -- that she is a Jew, hidden by a local farmer. Lambert's jealousy leads him to inadvertently expose her, which also exposes Tuur's family and the entire underground Resistance in the village. Wearing the Hitler Youth uniform to please his father, Lambert remains loyal to his friend, helping Tuur's family escape across the border.

Is it any good?

This film movingly depicts how war shatters the innocence of two friends divided by their parents' conflicting allegiances. Secrets of War subtly compares the exclusionary behavior and misunderstandings of childhood to the same actions magnified in adulthood. Director Dennis Bots illuminates the way bullying turns into totalitarianism and how ignorance transforms into murderous nationalism. This is an intense look at war through a child's eyes; older kids and parents will find lots to discuss and may be inspired to learn more about the topic.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about WWII. What do you know about this time period? What did you learn from Secrets of War? How can you learn more? 

  • During times of war, seemingly petty differences can have life-and-death consequences. How did ideology and politics affect the friendship between Tuur and Lambert?

  • Why do you think the filmmaker chose to tell a story of war and bigotry through children's eyes?

  • How do the characters in Secrets of War demonstrate integrity and courage? Why are these important character strengths?

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