THE KING’S CHOICE, drama, not rated, in Nor­we­gian and Ger­man with sub­ti­tles, The Screen,

Pasatiempo - - MOVING IMAGES - Beyond the Fringe, Beyond the Fringe

Nor­way never stood a chance. The mo­ment Ger­many invaded, the end was a fore­gone con­clu­sion. The only ques­tion was whether Nor­way would go qui­etly or re­sist. Adolf Hitler pre­ferred a regime that would play nicely and give cover to his claim that the in­va­sion was for Nor­way’s own good — to pro­tect it from the British. The choice was up to the king. The king said no. In a sketch skew­er­ing World War II movies from the bril­liant ’60s British satir­i­cal re­vue a com­man­der calls a pi­lot in for a sui­cide mis­sion: “I want you to lay down your life, Perkins. We need a fu­tile ges­ture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war.” The choice King Haakon VII ( Jes­per Chris­tensen) faces in this movie, an his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate retelling of the events of a few days in April 1940, is not dis­sim­i­lar. Re­sis­tance is fu­tile, and the con­se­quences are likely to be mea­sured in mas­sive loss of life, per­haps in­clud­ing the king’s. But the con­science of Nor­way de­mands it.

Erik Poppe’s drama opens a win­dow into a pocket of his­tory that is not widely known these days out­side of its home coun­try. The film be­gins with some quick back­ground on King Haakon, a Dan­ish prince tapped in 1905 to become con­sti­tu­tional monarch of a Nor­way newly sep­a­rated from Swe­den. The post was largely cer­e­mo­nial, but that cer­e­mony be­came a cru­cial el­e­ment of the Nazi in­va­sion.

The first blow is struck by the Nor­we­gians, when the com­man­dant of the Os­cars­borg Fortress fires on an in­vad­ing flotilla of Ger­man war­ships steam­ing into the Oslofjord, sink­ing one and forc­ing the rest to re­treat. This buys a bit of time, and the king, his son Crown Prince Olav (An­ders Baasmo Chris­tiansen), and the rest of the fam­ily are able to es­cape to the north.

The Ger­man en­voy, Curt Bräuer (Karl Markovics, in a very Christoph Waltz role) is or­dered by Hitler to per­suade the king to ac­cept Ger­many’s pro­tec­tion. Bräuer gives his best “good Ger­man” ef­fort, but the king is in­tractable, es­pe­cially be­cause col­lab­o­ra­tion would mean ac­cept­ing as prime min­is­ter the detestable pro-Nazi Vid­kun Quis­ling, whose name has become syn­ony­mous with traitor (Poppe does not even deign to give him screen time).

There are wooden stretches and some clichéd diver­sions (the fresh­faced teenage sol­diers hold­ing back ad­vanc­ing Ger­man forces) that fit the model and de­tract from the film’s im­pact. But Chris­tensen makes a hag­gard, noble King Haakon, and shows us the hu­man be­ing in­side the royal garb. And he gives us a glimpse into why this man, who held fast to his prin­ci­ples, re­mains a cher­ished fig­ure in Nor­way to­day. — Jonathan Richards

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.