Another ambitious film about World War II in Norway.
Less than 10 minutes ago
WAR FILM / DRAMA
“The battle for Narvik”
Premiere in cinemas on 25 December
Norway. 12 years. Director: Erik Skjoldbjærg
With: Carl Martin Eggesbø, Kristine Hartgen, Stig Henrik Hoff, Henrik Mestad, Kari Bremnes, Emil Johnsen
Much is still going wrong in this world, but in one field there is progress: The Norwegian films about the Second World War (an awful lot of them are still being made) have become better, and in any case more sophisticated and complex.
It took time – 75 years, say. But now Norwegian film is mature enough to do something other than erecting statues of clean, straight, patriotic heroes. “The biggest crime” (2020), “Krigsseileren” (2022) and now “The Battle of Narvik” – these are stories that want something more than just to get the patriotic blood pumping.
In April 1940, Narvik is one of the most important cities in Norway for the German occupying power. Swedish iron ore is sent by Ofotbanen and then shipped out from Nordlandsbyen, and the Germans, who need the iron ore for the war industry, want to acquire full control of the business. The English are doing their best not to make it.
A (fictitious) young married couple with a small child, Gunnar (Carl Martin Eggesbø) and Ingrid Tofte (Kristine Hartgen) become central figures in the drama.
Gunnar because he is a corporal in the squad of a major, Omberg (Henrik Mestad), who has no plans to lay down his arms. Ingrid because she speaks fluent German and English. She spies for the English consul (Ollie Campbell), and is an interpreter in the conversations between Narvik’s mayor Theodor Broch (Emil Johnsen) and the German consul, Fritz Wussow (Christoph Bach).
While Gunnar tries to stop the Germans with weapons and explosives in the mountains, Ingrid has to balance on a knife’s edge in the city, where she works daily at the Royal Hotell. Ingrid plays her roles, including that of little Ole’s mother, to perfection. But for how long?
There are at least a couple of things that are refreshing about “The Battle of Narvik”. The first is that it takes place somewhere other than in Eastern Norway. The other is that the women in it, and especially then Ingrid, are actors. Ingrid has to live and work in an everyday life that is just as unpredictable and dangerous as the one her husband finds himself in. And both are only human. He is scared. She does what she has to do to give their child a future.
What many will remember best from “The Battle of Narvik” is that it is able to show us the effect of war on a small society, one where everyone knows everyone. As well as – not least – the fight scenes. “The Battle of Narvik” contains three major ones, the first of which is an exciting battle against the clock. The other two, especially the one depicting trench warfare on Norwegian soil, are among the most realistic and painful I have seen in a Norwegian film.
The film is brilliantly photographed by John-Erling H. Fredriksen (who has been in the war before, in the great “Flukt over the border” from 2020). The images are dark and expressive; the night is red with fires and bombs. The audience member feels attuned to the time and circumstances.
The objections are that the mix of war and love story feels somewhat contrived, that the major becomes a caricature and that “The Battle of Narvik” does not bring so much new to the Norwegian war film library – beyond reinforcing and deepening a good tendency.
But what may be the most vulnerable film in Norwegian history – first the pandemic, then the war in Ukraine – has been worth waiting for. The second best Norwegian war film of the year, after “Krigsseileren”.
Published: 24.12.22 at 12:00