🇩🇰 APRIL 9TH 🇩🇰
APRIL 9th (2015) is a Danish war film. 1hr 33m. 12 Cert U.K. Available on Prime Video U.K., & ROI, Roku, Tubi (free) Prime Video rent/buy US, Prime Video Can. Subtitles.
“In the early morning of April 9th 1940, the Danish army is alerted. The Germans have crossed the border; Denmark is at war against Europe’s strongest army. In Southern Jutland Danish bicycle- and motorcycle companies are ordered out, to against all odds, hold back the forces until the Danish reinforcements can be mobilized. In the fatal hours, we follow second lieutenant Sand (Pilou Asbæk) and his bicycle company – they will as the first Danish soldiers meet the enemy in combat on April 9th 1940.” Nordisk Film Production
Pilou Asbæk as Second Lieutenant Sand
Lars Mikkelsen as Lieutenant Colonel Hintz
Simon Sears as Captain Holm
Sebastian Bull Sarning as “Volunteer” Lundgren
Gustav Dyekjær Giese as “Volunteer” Andersen
Elliott Crosset Hove as “Volunteer” Lassen
Martin Greis-Rosenthal as Lieutenant Gjermansen
Ari Alexander as Volunteer Justesen
Joachim Fjelstrup as Sergeant Bundgaard
Director: Roni Ezra
Cinematographer: Philippe Kress
Writer: Tobias Lindholm
Music: Jonas Struck
Visual Effects: Thomas Øhlenschlæger
Costume: Anne-Dorthe Eskildsen
I have translated the rank “Menig” as “Volunteer” in the cast list as there is no NATO equivalent rank. These were not conscript soldiers.
The use of bicycles is perhaps seen as impractical and even laughable nowadays but units like these were common in this era. Germany had whole bicycle battalions and Japan used 50,000 bicycle infantry to conquer much of South East Asia and China. This included taking Singapore from Great Britain. Bicycles were a cost-effective alternative to horses which required feeding which could also panic under fire.
Tobias Lindholm may be known to you for such works as The Hunt, The Investigation, Another Round, Follow the Money, Mindhunter and Borgen. He is a multi-award-winning writer, director and producer.
This is a film about the invasion of Denmark on April 9th 1940 but does it also carry wider messages?
Pilou Asbæk is outstanding in the lead role of the commanding officer of the bicycle unit. A professional soldier he is unflinching in his loyalty to his men, in the demands he places upon both them and himself but also in doing his best to follow orders, even when those orders are clearly wrong. “Never debate an order” is something he tells his newly appointed second in command. He expects full commitment from both his men and himself. Given the choice (and it is a real one) of staying safe or going back out to fight again, he chooses the latter for himself and his men. He tries to be obedient to orders (even when daft) tactically competent (he is) make the correct decisions (he does) and protect his men (he finds he cannot). The final scenes where he realises it is all over, the conversation with the German officer and a dawning realisation of it all… this is great, understated acting.
The rest of the supporting cast is also really strong in this. There are some faces from a variety of productions in this movie. Lars Mikkelsen is only in a few scenes but he adds his usual extra value.
I like the way that the characters and context are introduced in April 9th. That the soldiers have to replace a flat tyre under a demanding time constraint seems daft to some of them, but later it becomes clear why the artificial pressure of time in a drill is necessary. We see their varying skills at shooting with a rifle, most great to good with one outstandingly terrible. From that, we have a row about the sharing of limited ammunition (40 rounds). Later we also see why going to sleep in full battle dress is not a pernickety game conjured up by officers just for the fun of it.
Both the incompetence and naivety of the Danish military and the Prime Minister at the time are clearly shown in this. Sand himself wants to tell his men exactly what is happening and why they going into action but is forbidden by orders from above. I admit to some eye-rolling in our house at the number of times incompetence from higher up was revealed.
Turning for a moment to direction and cinematography, I thought these were both excellent. The silent shots on faces and reactions are incredibly effective. The costuming throughout seems very accurate and quite an achievement. An outstanding aspect of April 9th is the effects which are simply fantastic! From large explosions to small artillery and more, very impressive indeed. The music is a perfect match and not overly intrusive.
Parts of this movie are very affecting and it is not encumbered by a lot of whizz-bang “heroism”. Small scenes, such as where a woman gently wipes blood from the face and hands of a young soldier like a mother and utters soothing words, are very affecting. The final scene on the coach is affecting as you can see the effects these events have had on each and every one of the soldiers, including Sand himself.
The most poignant part of this film was the interviews with men (now elderly) who had taken part in this. How they feel now looking back, how their relatives felt then and how some have never really recovered from the horror of it all.
The messages of April 9th for me are courage and heroism in the face of overwhelming odds, a willingness to defend one’s country and that, ultimately, war often leads to a completely unnecessary loss of life. This is not a film that glorifies war but it does shine a bright light upon the men (some little more than boys) who fought and died.
The story April 9th tells is a small, relatively intimate one told at a platoon level. This is not a huge battle, this is not a victory… this is a defeat. Small tragedies within a global event.
Awards: 3 Nominations ~
Robert Audience Award (2016) ~ Rene Ezra, Tomas Radoor, Roni Ezra
Robert Best Visual Effects (2016) ~ Thomas Øhlenschlæger
Zulu Awards (2016) ~ Roni Ezra
Trailer (with subtitles):