This movie was a little different for me; not having heard anything about it myself, I watched it upon the recommendation of my brother Josh, who is a Christian actor. Josh had the opportunity to see the film while attending a Christian Film Festival in San Antonio. It went on to win that festival along with many others.
Any expectation I had for the film was based upon his recommendation of it, yet, I tried to come at it with a completely open mind. Here’s what I saw:
Immediately the movie acclimates you to the time era in which it takes place. The beginning credits roll amid a collage of old photographs from the 40s and 50s that set the mood and tone. The story of the movie is based upon the tale of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch woman who saved many jews, helping them escape the nazis by hiding them in her home in Haarlem, The Netherlands. The story of “Return to the Hiding Place”, is a perpendicular story to that of Corrie ten Boom, and follows the teenage army of Peit Hartog.
Without words, everything bespeaks German occupation. Swastika litter the film; props to art team for the beautifully done sets and design. Everything was very professional, I saw nothing that distracted me from the film in any area of set design or cinematography. This movie brings the emotion and draw of why the Dutch helped Jews escape persecution of Adolf Hitler.
The CGI was decent… Nothing spectacular, but that just reflects their budget. There was one scene in particular where a vehicle blew up and flew directly at the camera, which was so clearly a CGI that it almost detracted from the scene and definitely injured the quality of the film to some extent.
One thing I found that I would’ve changed was a few characters layers. A character is the heart and soul of a story. What we see in this film is that the characters were somewhat incorrectly established. Corrie ten Boom especially was weak: concept wise. I know the story was not centered around her, but it seemed as if the “hiding place” in her house was not her idea. She has been portrayed as a radical, feiry, driven individual, and we just don’t see the bold, brash action that is commonly attributed to her.
I did notice that everyone seemed to lose their accents as the movie progressed. It’s started with mostly broken German accents and morphed to a heavier English accent. However, at the very end, the accents did return to their original positions.
From a perspective stand point, I wasn’t thrilled about this film. Immediately the title of the film turned me off. I had watched the original “Hiding Place” a number of years ago and hated it. Hated the story, hated the intensity with which the themes were portrayed, and hated the spastic, loud, and bizarre character portrayals. Some analysts feed off of the pandemonium and hectic atmosphere of a film, but I can’t stand it.
With that in mind, the second I heard the title, “Return to the Hiding Place”, my expectations fell beyond the floor and into the gutters. If I had not been watching to review the film, I would have come at it so decidedly biased against it that I would not have been happy with it regardless of its quality and many stellar attributes.
However, being that I kept an open mind, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and would gladly watch it again. I realize that the name is very marketable and thus I forgive them for that. This film, as is the way with most Christian films, was created by a family. The Spencer family, directed by both Peter and Josiah Spencer, and staffed by many other Spencers, (a seemingly out of place fact, but there’s a point to it).
In the acting realm: the effect that John Rhys-Davies had on the film was significant. To pull an actor of his caliber into a scene lifts the quality of acting up a notch. Other actors can better play their roles when complimented by a very experienced actor such as Rhys-Davies.
(Here’s where that part about family comes in.)
When a family group picks up a story and a topic for a film, it always seems to be specific and poignant to them and others like them. Whereas, when a larger company develops a story it is prone to generalized messages and inapplicable principals. The message of this film is one of unusual potency: As the will of the students goes, so goes the will of the nation.
The future is the student, the young men and women seeking to learn and to better their minds. The future lies with the fickle, the inexperienced, and the passionately driven youth of the world. When a cause is worthy, good men and women will flock to it. Good young men and women even more so than those older.
“Return to the Hiding Place” gives us a challenge to give up everything that we know, for what we know is right.
Follow the film on Facebook. @ReturntotheHidingPlace
As always, thanks for reading.
—the anonymous novelist