🇳🇴 THE KING’S CHOICE 🇳🇴
The King’s Choice (2016) aka Kongens Nei is a Norwegian biographical war film. Available at present on BBC Iplayer U.K., Prime Video U.K., Can, US; Roku, Vudu, Kanopy etc. US; 2hr 13min. Cert 12 U.K. Languages: Norwegian, German, Danish, Swedish and English. English subtitles.
Jesper Christensen as H.R.H. King Haakon Vll
Anders Baasmo Christiansen as H.R.H. Crown Prince Olav
Karl Markovics as Curt Bräuer
Tuva Novotny as H.R.H. Crown Princess Märta
Arthur Hakalahti as Private Fredrik Seeberg
Svein Tindberg as Peder Anker Wedel Jarlsberg
Director: Erik Poppe
Writers: Harald Rosenløw-Eeg & Jan Trygve Røyneland
Producers: Finn Gjerdrum & Stein B. Kvae
Cinematographer: John Christian Rosenlund
Composer: Johan Söderqvist
Editor: Einar Egeland
Visual Effects: Arne Kaupang
Production Design: Peter Bävman
Sound: Christian Schaanning
Special Effects: Gusten Blick, Robin Blick & Johan Harnesk
Stunts: Dennis Albrethsen, Kimmo Rajala and Kai Kolstad Rødseth
This film was inspired by a book written by Alf R. Jacobsen.
The King’s Choice was the official submission of Norway for the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category of the 89th Academy Awards in 2017. It made the shortlist of 9 to be considered for a nomination.
More on the real Battle of Drøbak Sound:
This production of this film was a joint project by Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland.
There are war films that are about war itself and others that are about the process of the loss of peace and the role of particular individuals in that. The King’s Choice has its focus firmly upon King Haakon himself and, to a lesser extent, Crown Prince Olav and the German diplomat Curt Bräuer.
The film opens with historical footage which establishes how the king and his family first came to Norway (they were Danish… I know, confusing) and a series of captions give us sufficient historical detail to know what happened between then and April 1940. The King’s Choice covers the period between the end of what is known as the “Phoney War” and the declaration of war between Norway and Nazi Germany. Not lingering to dwell too much upon historical details let us proceed to the film itself…
The performances in this film are all first-rate with many also speaking in more than one language. The central performance of Jesper Christensen as the king is fantastic and nuanced. We see him as the loving father and grandfather, the nominal and in practice powerless head of state until of course, the situation changes and it is he who has to do his duty and make the decision that affects the future of his country and its people.
Having watched Anders Baasmo Christiansen in comedic roles such as Burning this film was something of a revelation as his portrayal of Olav is very impressive indeed.
The other role that truly impressed me is that of Karl Markovics as Curt Bräuer which he plays beautifully. He conveys perfectly the sheer desperation of a career diplomatic who is trying to avert war. The scene where he chases after a departing car is particularly memorable. We can see what he is up against from Hitler and within the German embassy itself.
Turning to the hostilities themselves they are conveyed really well through a combination of visual and special effects and very clever use of the camera. The close quarters attack is visceral and incredibly tense, with a lot of hand-held and ground-level camera work. By way of another example, there is a mass escape through the forest whilst being attacked by aircraft… it does not get more realistic than this! As to be expected from a director of Erik Poppe’s prowess the direction is fabulous and at no point did my interest flag.
Combining with the storytelling and characters are a very strong sound design, especially in those combat sequences, and a fantastic music score which for much of the time reminded me of Hans Zimmer’s score for Dunkirk. The “music” is mechanical, industrial, threatening and anxiety-inducing. Music that conveys the might of the Nazi military against a woefully underprepared foe. There are however sections where the music is stunning, melodic and sweeping. This is, after all, a deeply patriotic film.
A slightly weak aspect (minor criticism really) is the introduction of a character that you know will be integral (and not in a good way) later which comes over as a bit too deliberate and artificial. I can see exactly why this was done for the film but it just does not quite work as well as it could do (this is no 1864 or April 9th in this respect). However this is not the main focus of the movie, so all is pretty much forgiven.
The captions of what happened to the “players” are very effectively done and unusually are not right at the end of the film. This certainly made me pay more attention to what follows them.
It would be easy for a film of this nature to get bogged down with the politicking and negotiations which would lose pacing but The King’s Choice deftly avoids this. What it does supremely well is provide us with a portrait of a man faced with a terrible decision and who is willing to perform his duty to his country without hesitation when needed.
Would I recommend The King’s Choice? Unreservedly, yes. It is not a blessing to live through “interesting times”.
15 wins and 9 nominations including ~
Amanda Awards, Norway (2017) Best Score ~ Johan Söderqvist; Best Visual Effects ~ Arne Kaupang; Best Film ~ Finn Gjedrum & Stein B. Kvae; Best Supporting Actor ~ Karl Markovics; Best Production Design ~ Peter Bävman; Best Editing ~ Einar Egeland & Paradox; Best Screenplay ~ Harald Rosenløw-Eeg & Jan Trygve Røyneland; Best Sound Design ~ Christian Scaanning
Trondheim International Film Festival (2017) Best Producer ~ Finn Gjerdrum & Stein B. Kvae; Best Male Actor in a Lead Role ~ Jesper Christensen; Best Original Screenplay ~ Harald Rosenløw-Eeg & Jan Trygve Røyneland; Best Cinematography ~ John Christian Rosenlund
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To “live in interesting times” is curse; it is indeed not a blessing, as has been made very clear to us in the past 17-18 months.