Variety has been given exclusive access to the first teaser for Norwegian drama “War Sailor,” which follows two Norwegian sailors whose merchant ship is attacked by German submarines at the outbreak of World War II. Beta Cinema will be selling the film at the Cannes Market.
The film centers on Alfred Garnes, a working-class sailor, who has recently become the father of a third child, and his childhood friend Sigbjørn Kvalen, known as Wally. The men are working on a merchant ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean when World War II breaks out. The two men struggle for survival in a spiral of violence and death, where at any moment German submarines may attack their vessel.
Meanwhile, Alfred’s wife Cecilia struggles through the war alone in Bergen. When British aircrafts attempt to bomb the German submarine bunker in Bergen, they instead hit the elementary school at Laksevåg and civilian homes at Nøstet, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths.
The film is directed by Gunnar Vikene, who served for several years as a submarine officer. His feature film credits include “Falling Sky,” “Trigger,” “Vegas” and “Here Is Harold.” His TV credits include “Occupied,” “Pørni” and Netflix’s “Borderliner.”
Vikene comments: “My ambition while making the film has been to make ‘War Sailor’ to be a universal, humanistic narrative about the human consequences of war.”
He adds: “Over two decades ago, I was told the real-life story of Alfred, Cecilia and Wally. At first, what moved me most about the story was that it was spectacular and fundamentally humanistic. It’s a story with war as the antagonist, about how everyday-people experience it and how it separates a family.”
He was also influenced by the discussion of how many refugees Norway should help, “often broken down into rhetorical exercises, where the human approach is forgotten in favor of economic reasoning. In some sickening examples, it is pure xenophobia,” he says.
“I feel that these views reveal a fundamental lack in empathy and a detachment from what today’s civilians in war situations are experiencing and fleeing from. ‘War Sailor’ depicts exactly that, and maybe, just maybe, people will see the film and connect what our ‘own’ experienced with what the ‘foreigners’ are living through today. Looking at the terrible current war in Ukraine makes this very present and close.”
The film is produced by Maria Ekerhovd for Norway’s Mer Film (“The Innocents,” “Flee,” “What Will People Say,” “Birds of Passage”). The coproducers are Rohfilm Factory, Studio Hamburg and Falkun Films.
The cast is led by Kristoffer Joner (“Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” “The Revenant”), Pal Sverre Hagen (“Troubled Water,” “Kon-Tiki”) and Ine Marie Wilmann (“Sonia: The White Swan”).