THE KING'S CHOICE
Director: Erik Poppe
Screenwriters: Harald Rosenløw-Eeg & Jan Trygve Røyneland
Anders Baasmo Christensen
Runtime: 133 mins.
Australian release date: 24 August 2107
Previewed at: Verona Cinemas, Paddington, Sydney, on 8 August 2017.
The King’s Choice was Norway’s nomination for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards and it is a spectacular epic on every level. It dramatises the events leading up to the German occupation of Norway in 1940, a story that’s not often told outside of its home territory. The recent Danish film Land Of Mine also dealt with the lesser known complexities of the Nazi invasion of Scandinavia, and both films provide historical accounts that are informative and compelling. The King’s Choice was enthusiastically received at this year’s Scandinavian Film Festival, as Land Of Mine had been the year before.
On the ninth of April 1940, under the guise of offering protection to the Norwegians, the Nazi war machine began to roll into Norway as frantic negotiations continued between the German envoy Curt Bräuer (Karl Markovics) and the passive Norwegian Government. The reigning monarch, King Haakon VII (Jesper Christensen) was placed in the difficult position of accepting the offer or maintaining Norway’s independence, which would likely result in war. Behind the scenes, the collaborator Vidkun Quisling, was attempting to orchestrate a coup, hoping to set up a government under Nazi occupation. Thus King Haakon was faced with the choice of accepting Quisling as the new Prime Minister or abdicating and placing his countrymen in a position which would inevitably have resulted in the loss of many lives. The King chose the latter and, by doing so, was forced to flee across the border to Sweden with his hot-headed son, Crown Prince Olav (Anders Baasmo Christensen), a journey that was necessarily hasty, precarious and plagued by issues of morality and honour.
As an historical document, The King’s Choice is riveting and the enactment of the events is harrowing and tense. Erik Poppe completely immerses his audience in the journey with the King’s family, who were caught in a situation that would have been unfathomable, not just because of the horrific circumstances but also because of having to make such a serious decision in haste. As Norway is a constitutional monarchy, the King was ill-prepared to act decisively; his was a purely figurative role and he had little prior warning of the coming invasion. Jesper Christensen delivers his role impeccably and conveys the doubts enveloping the King with conviction, every fear and uncertainty etched in the lines of his face. The interactions between him and his son are incredibly moving as they wrestle with their consciences, and each other’s opposing views, in their desperate attempt to make the right decision, not only for themselves and their families, but for the nation as a whole. Peter Bävman’s production design provides a realistic insight into the regal residences of Oslo and the variety of locations the royal family were forced to hole up in as they fled north. The bleak wintry conditions that the movie was filmed in add to the authenticity. Gripping and absorbing, The King’s Choice is a piece of Norwegian history, now strikingly recorded for posterity.