This well-crafted and entertaining first feature from Hans Petter Moland reflects on the treacherous and confusing months in 1940 when Germany unexpectedly invaded Norway. Likely to spark controversy on its home turf, film boasts an interesting, exciting story and a top performance from veteran actor Espen Skjonberg. It could well find international commercial interest.
Skjonberg plays a craggy old Naval officer who has retired from the sea at about the same time as the April invasion of his country. He’s the horrified witness to Germany’s bombing of Oslo and skirmishes outside his own apartment building.
Determined to fight for king and country, the old-timer leaves his wife behind, dons a long out-of-date uniform (with the rank of second lieutenant, which no longer actually exists) and attempts to enlist. He discovers to his amazement that Norway has officially surrendered to the invaders. Unwilling to accept the situation, he heads out of the city and rallies around him a ragged civilian army of partisans with the aim of guarding a strategic bridge.
Against the odds, he becomes a hero. A strict disciplinarian, he gains the confidence of his untrained men, and a first encounter with the enemy is entirely successful, with prisoners taken. But the eventual conclusion is never in any doubt, though in the end the old man is left to face the advancing Germans alone.
This very handsome $ 2.9 million production, also known as “The Last Lieutenant,” is another fine example of classy Norwegian cinema. It’s handsomely photographed for the wide screen by Harald Paalgard, and the action scenes are confidently staged. The script is intelligent and well structured, and the editing, after a slightly rocky first reel, is on the mark.
But above all this is a performance film, and Skjonberg is memorable as the tenacious old soldier who, though not a nationalist, still refuses to allow his country to be overrun without a fight. Standouts among the supporting cast are Bjorn Sundquist, as a vet of the Spanish Civil War who becomes the old man’s deputy, and Lars Andreas Larssen as a regular army officer who is shamed by the old man’s example.
All production credits are first class. Pic was selected to open the recent Norwegian fest at Haugesund.